The United States military on Friday began moving non-essential gear out of Syria, but will not withdraw troops immediately, AFP reported, citing American defense officials. President Donald Trump claimed in December that US troops had defeated the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and would now return home.

Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military’s term for its intervention in Syria and Iraq, now means “implementing the orderly withdrawal of forces from northeast Syria within a framework coordinated across the US government”, Pentagon spokesperson Sean Robertson said on Friday evening.

“For purposes of operational security, we will not discuss specific troop movements or timelines,” he added. “However, we will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date. The mission has not changed.”

“We are not withdrawing troops at this stage,” an unidentified US defense official said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, on Thursday that America will withdraw from Syria despite criticism of the move. But in a speech on the same day, he ironically added: “When America retreats, chaos often follows.”

Democratic Party legislator Adam Schiff on Friday lashed out at the Donald Trump administration for its decision to pull the US out of Syria. “The Trump Administration’s foreign policy is as deeply flawed in its conception as it is dangerously incompetent in its execution,” Schiff, who is the chairperson of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, tweeted. He said the administration decided to go ahead with the withdrawal despite the military’s concerns.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis had resigned immediately after Trump’s claim in December that the Islamic State group had been defeated.