Pompeo discusses USA drawdown in Syria with Turkish counterpart

2018 shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij

Kurdish-led groups who control swathes of northern Syria fear an attack from Turkey in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from their region. For years Trump has criticized USA deployment in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

USA airstrikes against IS in Syria began in September 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year in small numbers.

USA troops are still working with a partner known as the Syrian Democratic Forces to stamp out the last IS holdouts in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraqi border.

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

At their meeting in Sochi on September 17, 2018, Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to create a demilitarized zone by October 15 in the province of Idlib, 15-20 km deep along the engagement line of the Syrian government troops and the armed opposition.

"We are not withdrawing troops at this stage", an unidentified U.S. defense official said.

Earlier this week, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said American troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS is defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected, signalling a slowdown in Trump's initial order for a rapid withdrawal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on January 12 he was optimistic that a "good outcome" can be achieved that protects both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, after speaking to the Turkish foreign minister. A former United States official told Al-Monitor that former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "had a unique level of credibility and juice" to defy Bolton, and that few people in the Defense Department have anything good to say about Bolton.

He told Fox News before departing from Cairo on Friday that an worldwide conference on Iran and the Middle East will take place in Poland on February 13-14.

President Trump consequently shocked allies and faced strong criticism at home last month when he ordered usa forces to immediately begin withdrawing from the approximately 30% of Syria controlled by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.

State Department officials have said Pompeo hopes his trip will strengthen the GCC, which has been weakened by a diplomatic rift that has pitted Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar for more than 18 months.

"We also know that those who aren't terrorists, those who were fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", Pompeo said. "They help. They show what reality is, they provide [people to] reunite with families", she said.

A Kurdish politician told Reuters last week the Kurds had presented Moscow with a roadmap for a deal with Damascus.

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesperson for the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said the USA started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria".

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, which is part of the US-led coalition, welcomed what he believed was a slower withdrawal by the United States after pressure from its allies.

"President Macron spoke to him (Trump) several times and it seems that there has been a change that I think is positive", he said in a television interview on Thursday.

Also, U.S. troops are among 200 to 300 coalition troops at a garrison in southern Syria known as al-Tanf, where they train and accompany local Syrian opposition forces on patrols to counter the IS group.