Iran protests to Poland over Iran-focussed summit

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President Donald Trump claimed in December that U.S. troops had defeated the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and would now return home.

On December 19, Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all USA forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000. But as Washington officials began to give mixed signals about the pull-out, Ankara reiterated an imminent invasion.

The official provided no numbers, but said the equipment withdrawal is under way and that an unspecified number of additional USA troops have been brought into Syria to assist with the process, including by providing additional security.

There are about 2,000 USA troops in Syria.

"We are not withdrawing troops at this stage", one United States defense official said.

While the US military pullout is now officially underway it has made a slow start.

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The State Department has said that a "united Gulf Cooperation Council the backbone for regional peace, prosperity, security and stability" and key to countering Iran.

"America wants an Arab coalition and force that is capable of facing the different challenges in the region", he said, adding, "US will not leave the Middle East, and destroying Daesh is a priority".

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 on Thursday night.

Senior US officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest.

The US-led coalition has several other bases across northeastern Syria, as well as in neighboring Iraq, where Trump has said American forces will remain.

The Turkish defense minister made this statement after a meeting with Chief of the General Staff Yasar Guler, Head of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan and Land Forces Commander Umit Dundar.

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The battle against die-hard jihadists in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world's most wanted man, could last indefinitely.

National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both visited countries in the region to explain the shift in USA policy. But in a speech on the same day, he ironically added: "When America retreats, chaos often follows". But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to crush the Kurdish groups that have been effective in defeating IS in Syria.

"We recognize the Turkish people's right to defend their country from terrorists, but we also know that those. who are not terrorists and fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected", Pompeo told reporters.

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been strained over USA 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.

There has been confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurdish fighters, who Ankara views as terrorists due to their ties to insurgents within Turkey.

The group has already started reaching out to Damascus and its Russian sponsor. The secretary emphasized that the participants would also debate on how to make sure Iran was not a "destabilising influence" in the region.

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