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January 21, 2019

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The Latest: Kurds say US withdrawal ‘America’s decision’

Updated Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 | 5:52 a.m.

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on Syria and U.S. military pullout (all times local):

4:55 p.m.

A senior Kurdish politician says the Kurds are aware of the U.S. beginning to withdraw from Syria, describing it as "America's decision."

Ilham Ahmed, who co-chairs the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Council in northeast Syria, said the Americans have a right to make decisions that are in their country's security and national interests.

However, she adds that safeguarding the peace and stability of the areas they withdraw from "must be guaranteed." This includes putting an end to Turkish threats and fully eradicating the Islamic State group and its sleeper cells, she said.

Ahmed spoke to The Associated Press Friday hours after an American official said the process of withdrawing American troops from Syria has begun.

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1:25 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the Americans are not serious about withdrawing from Syria.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Friday that it appears to Moscow that the U.S. "is looking for a reason to stay."

Zakharova said Moscow has not seen public statements laying out the U.S. strategy in Syria and so cannot be sure that the U.S. is serious about leaving.

Zakharova's remarks appeared shortly after an American official said that the U.S.-led military coalition has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria.

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12:30 p.m.

An American military official says the U.S.-led military coalition has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria.

Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-coalition fighting the Islamic State group, says the U.S. started "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria."

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, he declined to discuss specific timelines or locations or troops movements out of concern for operational security.

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.

The U.S. has around 2,000 troops in Syria.