Donald Trump defends Syria policy, saying US is not abandoning Kurds with troop withdrawal – USA TODAY


President Donald Trump defended a plan to move U.S. troops out of Northern Syria despite a backlash Monday from the GOP.

WASHINGTON – Facing criticism from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, President Donald Trump defended his withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria on Tuesday and claimed he is not selling out Kurdish allies.

“We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters,” Trump said in a series of tweets. 

Congressional lawmakers said Trump is doing exactly that by allowing Turkey to invade northern Syria and possibly crush U.S-supported Kurds who have helped combat Islamic State extremists. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., blasted the decision Tuesday as “morally repugnant” and said it “stains our nation’s reputation.” 

Trump echoed a threat he made Monday to “destroy” Turkey’s economy if it wipes out the Kurds. He also defended Turkey, calling it “a NATO and Trading partner” with whom the United States has a “very good” relationship.

Meanwhile, Trump indicated he plans to welcome Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip for meetings next month in Washington.  Erdogan has reportedly accepted an invitation from Trump. 

As the region braced for fighting between Turks and Kurds, officials in Turkey dismissed Trump’s threats.

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Turkey Vice President Fuat Oktay, saying his country wants to create a zone to permit the resettlement of Syrian refugees, told reporters that “where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, meanwhile, said in a statement that “we will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops. Turkey views the Kurds as terrorists with ties to domestic insurgents.  

In the United States, officials said Trump’s withdrawal will trigger more fighting, pleasing Turkey, Russia, Iran and others who have their own designs for Syria.

“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Defending his decision, Trump noted that he campaigned for the presidency on a pledge to end wars in places like Syria. Yet the White House stressed the decision was not a “withdrawal” of U.S. forces but a reassignment of a limited number of soldiers from Northern Syria to other parts of the beleaguered country.  

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Trump also tweeted that “we are helping the Kurds financially/weapons!”

The White House announced late Sunday that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Erdogan, who spoke by phone with Trump over the weekend, considers the Kurdish forces terrorists allied with insurgents inside his country. Erdogan has reportedly accepted an invitation from Trump to visit Washington next month. 

The Syria situation arose as Trump is fending off an impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats who believe the president abused his power by asking Ukraine to look into political rival Joe Biden during a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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