The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the withdrawal began Thursday night. It said a convoy of about 10 armored vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.
Senator Lindsey Graham suggested the withdrawal had been slowed and he was now reassured of the president's commitment after meeting him on Sunday. The White House has yet to comment on Mr Graham's remarks. He did not explain this, but The New York Times reports that he may be referring to assurances given to military officials that they can have longer than 30 days to ensure an orderly withdrawal of troops. On 19 December, Mr Trump announced the pullout of some 2,000 troops, asserting that IS had been defeated. US troops have helped rid much of Syria's north-east of the jihadist group, but pockets of fighters remain.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States would get out of Syria "over a period of time" and wants to protect the US-backed Kurdish fighters in the country as Washington draws down troops. Trump did not provide a timetable for the planned military exit from Syria, which he unexpectedly announced last month against the advice of top national security aides and without consulting politicians or US allies participating in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). Defense Secretary James Mattis unexpectedly resigned after the announcement, and Brett McGurk, the US's top envoy in the fight against ISIL, announced he would be leaving his post earlier than expected due to the decision. During a Cabinet meeting at the White House in front of reporters on Wednesday, Trump said he had never discussed a reported four-month timetable for the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops stationed in Syria. In recent days, Trump appeared to back off from the rapid pull-out he initially ordered and stressed that the operation would be slow.