Politics Trump calls Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria 'a bad idea' as Republican criticism mounts
White House says Turkey's Syria operation is imminent, US troops won't be present
The White House on Sunday night said Turkey will soon be launching a military operation in northeastern Syria and that U.S. troops will no longer be "in the immediate area" when it happens."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, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
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President Trump urged Turkey on Wednesday to protect civilians and safeguard Islamic State prisons as it launched a military operation in northern Syria against Syrian Kurdish forces, saying the United States would hold its NATO ally responsible for the consequences of its decision to attack a key U.S. counterterrorism partner.
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Trump defends U.S. relations with Turkey after bipartisan backlashCritics fear the move will open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied with Washington who have led the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria. Turkey says those forces are terrorists because of their ties to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.
Calling the offensive “a bad idea,” the president said in a statement that Turkey had promised to avert a humanitarian crisis and ensure its operation did not allow the Islamic State to regain strength.
“We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments,” Trump said.
The president also linked his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from an area of northern Syria now being targeted by Turkey — a move widely criticized as enabling the Turkish attack — to his goal of ending the insurgent wars that have dominated the U.S. military’s focus for two decades.
“From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars — especially those that don’t benefit the United States,” he said.”
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The funds are meant to "protect persecuted ethnic and religious minorities and advance human rights""This funding will provide emergency financial assistance to Syrian human rights defenders, civil society organizations and reconciliation efforts directly supporting ethnic and religious minority victims of the conflict," the statement reads.
Earlier in the day, Trumpthat U.S. forces “should never have been there in the first place.”
The president’s remarks came as Republicans in Congress continued to warn that the Turkish assault was a threat to U.S. policy interests.
“A Turkish military advance into Syria threatens to halt momentum against ISIS, directly assaults our SDF partners, and could give the likes of al-Qaeda and Iran new footholds in the region,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He called on Turkey to “stop immediately and continue to work with the US to secure the region.”
ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State. The SDF refers to the Syrian Democratic Force, the Kurdish-dominated fighters who have been the principal U.S. allies on the ground against the militants.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, noted that “It’ll be hard to protect America without allies over there, and the Kurds have been good allies.” The Turks were not entering Syria to fight the Islamic State, Graham said on "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday morning. “They’re going in to kill the Kurds.”
Pelosi says she and Graham will introduce resolution to block Trump on Syria
Senator Lindsey Graham has been trying to dissuade the president from withdrawing all the remaining U.S. troops from SyriaThe withdrawal has sparked perhaps the strongest criticism of the president from Republicans of any issue since Mr. Trump's presidency, and at a time when he most needs Republicans' support during the impeachment inquiry. Republicans have been trying to talk the president out of the decision, as Turkey moves deeper into Syria and Kurdish allies who helped the U.S. defeat ISIS fend for their lives.
Speaking of Trump, Graham said, “I hope he’s right. I don’t think so. I know that every military person has told him don’t do this.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria was having “sickening and predictable consequences.”
“The U.S. is abandoning our ally the Kurds, who fought ISIS on the ground and helped protect the U.S. homeland,” she said in a statement. “This decision aids America’s adversaries, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, and paves the way for a resurgence of ISIS.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. military was closely monitoring the events in Syria. One U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said the Pentagon was tracking Turkish airstrikes in the region, including some that appeared to hit populated areas.
The official said the SDF had reduced its presence at prisons in Syria whereare being held and at other camps for displaced people it controls.
Later in the day, an official said all operations focused on the Islamic State in Syria had been halted at this time.
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President Donald Trump announced Monday that he would "soon" issue an order sanctioning Turkish officials, hiking tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50% and "immediately" halting trade negotiations with the country. © Thomson Reuters Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters hold the Syrian opposition flag at the border town of Tel Abyad, Syria, October 14, 2019.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey, a NATO member, had informed the alliance about its “ongoing operation in Northern Syria.”
“I count on Turkey to act with restraint & ensure that the gains we have made in the fight against ISIS are not jeopardized,”. “I will discuss this issue with [Turkish] President Erdogan Friday.”
U.S. officials said Turkish defense officials had also notified a U.S. general based in Ankara as Washington’s military attache early Wednesday that Turkey’s operation in Syria would begin within a few hours. Turkish forces began pressing forward not long afterward.
The situation raises questions for U.S. troops in both Syria and Turkey.
The U.S. military established a combined joint operations center in Ankara several weeks ago to coordinate with Turkish forces on patrols in a “security mechanism” buffer zone in Syria along the border with Turkey. With Turkey turning away from that agreement, however, the U.S. troops at the center may be called on to instead monitor the Turkish operation and make sure that U.S. troops stay out of harm’s way, the U.S. officials said.
In a sign of Washington’s disapproval, Turkish forces were removed from planned flights by the U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State in Syria, officials said. Turkish access to some intelligence and surveillance information also has been curtailed.
Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS .
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey, penned an open letter in English rebuking President Trump's comparison of the group to ISIS amid a fight between Kurds and Turkish forces in northern Syria. © Reuters/NDN Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS The PKK said in Friday's letter that it "refused comparisons" to ISIS after Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Kurds were "no angels" and that the PKK is likely "more of a terrorist threat" than ISIS.
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