Syrian Pullout: Government Claims That Military Pullout Has Begun, Activists Say Crackdown Escalated

Syrian officials said on Tuesday that the nation has begun pulling out troops from “calm cities” after recently agreeing to a plan drawn up by Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy. A withdrawal of its troops, according to the plan, will complete by April 10.

A government official told the Associated Press on Tuesday that “Forces began withdrawing to outside calm cities and are returning to their bases, while in tense areas, they are pulling out to the outskirts,” but the official’s claims couldn’t immediately be verified.

According to reports from other sources, however, there is no indication that Syrian forces have begun pulling out of major cities such as Damascus. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN: “We have seen no evidence today that he is implementing any of those commitments. We have been able to verify no withdrawal of mechanized units, which is what he’s claiming credit for today.”

A spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria told reporters that instead of pulling troops out, President Bashar Assad is beginning to ramp up violence in some areas. A U.S. Ambassador also said that what they have been seeing is “not encouraging.”

“What we have seen since April 1st is not encouraging,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters. “Should the government of Syria use this window — rather than to de-escalate — to intensify the violence, it will be most unfortunate, and it will be certainly our view that the Security Council will need to respond to that failure in a very urgent and serious way.”

Sources: AP, CNN