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Syria

US Forces Leave Northern Syria As Kurdish Troops Fear Turkish Attack

Kurdish forces fought alongside the US against so-called Islamic State in Syria.

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American troops have started to evacuate north-east Syria (Library picture: US Department of Defense).

US-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria have said American troops have begun withdrawing from areas along Turkey's border.

It comes hours after the White House said US forces will be withdrawn from north-eastern Syria, leaving behind Kurdish fighters who fought alongside them against the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said the move clears the way for an expected Turkish attack on Kurdish-held areas in north-east Syria, which would impact the battle against IS.

The Kurdish Hawar news agency and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said American troops were evacuating positions near the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad, following US President Donald Trump's decision last December to remove all 2,000 American troops from Syria.

The announcement prompted the resignation of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and efforts from former National Security Advisor, John Bolton to try to protect the Kurds.

In the hours leading up to the statement, the White House announced that it would no longer be "support or be involved in the operation" against IS, adding that Turkey will take custody of captured foreign fighters held by Kurdish forces during the captured in the US-led ground campaign. 

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said US troops "will no longer be in the immediate area", as Turkey is set to invade northern Syria. Kurdish forces are considered terrorists by the Turkish government.

Earlier this year, the US announced that 200 troops will remain in Syria on peacekeeping duty.