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United States to slowly exit Syria

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Turkey says almost 300,000 Syrian refugees have gone home

Reports this week that US President Donald Trump effectively "surrendered" Syria to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan only served to increase Israel's concerns over the situation on its northern border.

The military last week threatened another incursion against YPG, this time vowing to eliminate the fighters from all of northeastern Syria, where about 2,000 USA special forces have operated, helping in the fight against IS and serving as a buffer in Turkish-Kurdish clashes.

Trump in a Twitter video posting on December 19 declared that "we have won" against the Islamic State (IS) terror group operating in Syria and made the surprise announcement he was bringing home all USA forces from the war-torn country.

But Trump didn't mention the 10,000 Kurdish troops who were fighting alongside the US-backed coalition against the Islamic State and who may now be vulnerable to attack from Turkish forces once the American military presence is removed.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his threats to target Kurdish fighters as he sent more troops to the border with Syria ahead of an imminent U.S. withdrawal.

Since then Turkey has repeatedly vowed to capture Manbij, but US troops in the region were a major obstacle to carrying out a military operation.

The move brought withering criticism from fellow Republicans, Democrats and worldwide allies.

"Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States", Trump said via Twitter.

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"Our units headed out to contact regions" controlled by the YPG, Abu Yazan said.

"An ally must be reliable, to coordinate with its other allies", he said.

Mattis, 68, had said he would leave at the end of February to allow a smooth transition for the next chief of the world's top military power - but a reportedly angry Trump accelerated his departure by two months.

"We must not forget what we owe them", Macron said Sunday on a visit to Chad.

Sunday's deployment is another sign that Erdogan has managed to become a more central player both in Middle Eastern politics and US foreign policy, capitalizing on an American president eager to fulfill promises to extricate troops from quagmires.

Hammoud said there is "no alternative" except Turkish forces and allied Syrian fighters.

Late Sunday, Trump tweeted that Erdogan had assured him that any remaining IS fighters in Syria will be eliminated.

United States officials have cautioned against a timeline for a Syria exit but the withdrawal could begin in weeks now that the order to pull-out troops has been signed.

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