Akar, Shanahan discuss US pullout from war-torn Syria

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan discussed U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria during a phone call on Thursday, according to a statement by Turkey's Defense Ministry.

During the call, the latest developments in Syria, the U.S. withdrawal process and the safe zone issues were reportedly discussed.

In mid-December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria, saying that the only reason U.S. troops were in Syria was to defeat Daesh, which he said was accomplished.

Trump's swift decision sparked the resignation of his former Defense Secretary James Mattis and has raised a range of criticisms.

The development was quickly also interpreted as an intention to halt U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an umbrella group consisting mostly of PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists.

Turkey has reiterated that a terrorist-free safe zone should be established in northern Syria under the supervision of Turkish forces only.

Last week, the United States said it would leave a small peacekeeping group of a few hundred American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout.

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