The U.S. has "begun the process" of a deliberate troop withdrawal from Syria, according to a statement Friday from a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
Their exit has not just alarmed the nation's Kurds, but even Christians in the country are afraid of what could happen after the USA troops leave, says Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria and a US representative of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a USA -backed Kurdish group.
Earlier this week, however, USA national security adviser John Bolton said the United States would expect guarantees that the Kurds would be protected after American troops leave the area.
The threats have intensified in recent days as the US begins the withdrawal process from Syria on President Donald Trump's orders.
Several weeks later, national security adviser John Bolton said the withdrawal will have a longer timeline, and will not be undertaken until Kurdish fighters are protected and ISIS is defeated in the war-torn country.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the USA military's term for its intervention in Syria and Iraq, now means "implementing the orderly withdrawal of forces from northeast Syria within a framework coordinated across the U.S. government", Pentagon spokesperson Sean Robertson said on Friday evening. Many are also anxious that the Kurdish forces, which spearheaded the fight against the "Islamic State" militants with USA backing, would be left vulnerable to an imminent attack by Turkey. Following the announcement, he was forced to reiterate the U.S.'s commitment to its more substantial troop to neighboring Iraq, where the USA -led coalition is also fighting ISIS.
"It's clear that the administration has no real plan", said Sen.
The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is underway and an unspecified number of additional USA troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the withdrawal process.
America "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people", he said during a speech in Egypt.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled Bolton's comments unacceptable and a "grave mistake".
On a visit Friday to Turkish troops stationed near the Syrian border, Turkey's defense minister, Hulusi Akar, said his country was "determined" to fight Kurdish militias it considers terrorists.
Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been strained over United States backing for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.
Erdogan has said his military is prepared to attack swaths of Syria under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units.