United States working with Turkey on 'slow, highly co-ordinated pullout' from Syria

Brett McGurk left at the Pentagon in May 2017

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union - has been responsible for the deaths of almost 40,000 people, including women and children.

A Kurdish-led force captured much of northern and eastern Syria from the Islamic State group with the help of the USA -led coalition.

Trump abruptly announced on Thursday that Mattis was "retiring" effective from February 28, 2019.

Earlier, Trump and Erdogan each said on Twitter that they held a "productive" phone conversation. "I hope our meeting will bring goodness to our country and region".

US President Donald Trump stunned the US political establishment, US allies, and the world last week when he made a decision to pull 2,000 troops from Syria just days after his Turkish counterpart warned Ankara would soon launch a new operation in the country's north.

He has been heavily criticized for the move. Erdogan has vowed to dislodge the USA -backed Kurdish YPG fighters from along its border with Syria.

"We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of USA troops from the area".

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he "deeply regretted" Trump's decision, and that "an ally must be reliable".

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, chairs a meeting of the National Security Council.

In a letter announcing his resignation, Mattis said it was his core belief that the USA needs to maintain strong alliances and show respect for allies.

A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimated IS might still have 20,000 to 30,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, mostly operating underground.

Defence officials have cautioned against a timeline, but the withdrawal could begin in weeks. They discussed "taking necessary and proactive precautions".

The convoys are crossing into area controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a Turkish ally, and are heading to the frontlines of Manbij, TRT World said.

The momentous decision to withdraw, which runs counter to long-established United States policy for Syria and the region, had blindsided lawmakers, the Pentagon, and global allies alike.

Plans for the troop withdrawal will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who Trump on Sunday said would replace Mattis starting January 1.

President Trump tweeted in response on Saturday: "Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015".

In his resignation letter, Mattis had said he would step down at the end of February to allow for a successor to be confirmed and to attend congressional hearings and a key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting.

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