The latest on what's happening in Syria

By Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 4:00 p.m. ET, October 20, 2019
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12:13 p.m. ET, October 20, 2019

Largest US troop withdrawal from Syria underway

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Barbara Starr and Cat Gloria

Hundreds of trucks carrying US personnel were observed by CNN gathering near Hasakah, Syria, en route east to the border with Iraq. 

A US official confirmed the ground move, the largest the US has made in Syria so far, marks the symbolic end of the major US presence in the region. 

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said the withdrawal would take weeks. Sunday's move from US positions in Kobani, forms a substantial part of the overall withdrawal. 

Speaking to reporters Saturday aboard a US military aircraft en route to a refueling stop before heading to Afghanistan, Esper said those troops would be withdrawing via helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, and ground convoys.

Esper said the 1,000 troops are being deployed to two missions, “one is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps.”

A senior US official later clarified that the location of the 1,000 troops is fluid, indicating it’s possible that not all 1,000 would be relocated to western Iraq. Any relocation out of Syria will be done in conjunction with host country governments, the official added.

11:16 a.m. ET, October 20, 2019

Mike Pompeo on Syria: "There's relatively little fighting"

From CNN's Alison Main

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the situation in Syria on ABC’s “This Week” after the administration decided to withdraw US troops from the region.

Pompeo said he got a report this morning from senior leaders indicating there is “relatively little fighting” in the region. He said the hope is that the ceasefire between Turkish and Syrian-Kurdish forces will hold.

Pompeo said the administration is still committed to its efforts in the Middle East, including pushing back against Iran and fighting ISIS.

Pompeo also addressed concerns from many, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, that the incursion of Turks and displacement of Kurds in Northern Syria will essentially lead to an ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people.

The secretary of state quelled this concern, saying that the statement the US released jointly with Turkey after negotiations this week made it clear there would not be attacks on minorities in the region.

When confronted with the observation that the Turks got everything they wanted out of the negotiation, Pompeo said “it sure didn’t feel that way when we were negotiating.”