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Turkey masses troops near Kurdish-held Syrian town

Turkey masses troops near Kurdish-held Syrian town

One day later, McGurk was confirmed to have resigned, in the latest sign of USA senior official's growing objection to Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

Turkey has conducted two successful cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 - Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations - both meant to eradicate the presence of YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists near Turkey's borders.

But Trump, who was irked by the attention given to Mattis' letter, said Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan would take over on an acting basis from 1 January.

No details were given on how and when the pullout of some 2,500 troops will take place.

The announcement that Mattis would leave the administration came just after Trump stunned Washington and allies overseas in declaring that USA troops would leave Syria and significantly withdraw from Afghanistan. But Ankara says the US and the Kurdish militia didn't live up to their end of the deal and that it would start an offensive in eastern Syria to drive out the militia.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that he had a "long and productive" call with Erdogan, in which they discussed "the slow & highly coordinated" pullout of USA military personnel.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 23, 2018.

USA troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often impulsive Trump.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who joined Neller in Afghanistan for a leg of the holiday visit, told the Journal he hadn't been issued orders from the White House or Pentagon about pulling the troops.

United States officials have cautioned against a timeline for a Syria exit but the withdrawal could begin in weeks now that the order to pull-out troops has been signed.

He added the troop withdrawal endangers Kurdish fighters, who were instrumental in the US-led coalition's fight against Isil militants. Turkey, Iran and regional Arab powers also fear the Kurds finally establishing a state of their own and forging a military alliance with Israel.

United States forces are still in Manbij and the Turkish-backed fighters will not advance until they withdraw, Hamoud told Reuters. In recent weeks Turkey had said the USA was dragging its feet in implementing the deal and had vowed to launch a new offensive against the Kurds.

Retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark suggested Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might have blackmailed US President Donald Trump into removing troops from Syria. The Minister of foreign Affairs of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey is planning a military operation in the Syrian regions of Afrin and Manbij.

"We will deal with whoever can protect the good and stability of this country", the Associated Press news agency quoted Ilham Ahmed as saying on Monday. But the extremists are largely confined to a remote desert enclave hundreds of miles (kilometres) to the southeast of Manbij. "After many years they [US troops] are coming home", Trump wrote, using alternate for Daesh.

There is no doubt Trump should have articulated a more prudent withdrawal strategy.

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