Politics Trump defends Syria withdrawal amid reports of atrocities and ISIS supporters escaping
Erdogan, Trump to meet next month in Washington amid Syria tensions: Turkey
President Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have agreed to meet in Washington in November amid tensions over Syria, Reuters reported Sunday.The agreement came during a phone call Sunday where the two leaders discussed a "safe zone" east of the Euphrates River in Syria from which Kurdish fighters would be withdraw, Ankara reportedly announced.The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.Conflict between the U.S. and Turkey over Kurdish fighters in Syria has been brewing for years.America is allied with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which the U.S.
President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his decision to pull back U.S. troops from Syria to clear the way for Turkish forces, despite mounting bipartisan criticism that the withdrawal abandons Kurdish allies in the region and empowers the remnants of the so-called Islamic State.
The U.S. is evacuating 1,000 U.S. troops from the region "as safely and quickly as possible" in the face of Turkey's rapid military advance against the Kurds, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. Esper said the troops would not leave Syria completely.
Trump defends Syria withdrawal amid outrcry from Kurdish allies
"The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so," Trump said as Turkey prepares an assault in the region.Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish forces in Syria to be terrorists allied with Kurdish insurgents within his country and has long threatened a military incursion into the area.
Trump defended the withdrawal, saying "endless wars must end." It was "very smart" not to be involved in the fighting along the Turkish border, he added, and if other powers want to intervene in the conflict, "Let them!"
"Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight," Trump wrote on Twitter. "They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?"
The president said he was working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to possibly impose sanctions on Turkey for its invasion. Trump signed an executive order Friday giving his administration broad authority to sanction Turkey.
"We'll be taking in new information and we're ready to go at a moment's notice to put on sanctions," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. "Now we have warned the Turks...They know what we will do if they don't stop these activities."
McConnell warns Trump most of Senate opposes Syria troop withdrawal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the highest ranking Republican to criticize President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from a multinational coalition fighting terrorism in Syria. © Provided by MediaDC: Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, Inc.McConnell, of Kentucky, went one step further than simply expressing opposition to the move. He reminded Trump that a supermajority of lawmakers — more than two-thirds of the full Senate, voted in January to express support for “continued military presence in northeastern Syria.” And he compared the move to the Obama administration’s inaction in Syria.
Defense Secretary Esper told Fox News that he was aware of reports of ISIS prisoners escaping due to the Turkish invasion, as well as atrocities reportedly being committed against Syrian Kurds by members of a Turkish-supported Syrian Arab militia.
Esper said that Turkey was ready to invade the country to attack Kurdish forces regardless of U.S. actions, and there was "no way" U.S. forces could have stopped the them.
James Mattis, Trump's first defense secretary, warned that a premature withdrawal would lead to a resurgence of ISIS after years of U.S. and Kurdish efforts to destroy the group. Mattis resigned as defense secretary last year over disagreements with Trump's foreign policy, including the president's desire to pull troops out of Syria.
"We may want a war over; we may even declare it over. You can pull your troops out as President Obama learned the hard way out of Iraq, but the 'enemy gets the vote,' we say in the military. And in this case, if we don't keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It's absolutely a given that they will come back," Mattis said in an interview with NBC's "Meet The Press."
Trump defends Syria move: The Kurds 'didn't help us' in Normandy
President Trump on Wednesday criticized the Kurds, saying they didn't help the United States during World War II and that they were only fighting for their land in Syria during the battle against ISIS."The Kurds are fighting for their land," Trump told reporters at the White House during an event in the Roosevelt Room."And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the second World War, they didn't"The Kurds are fighting for their land," Trump told reporters at the White House during an event in the Roosevelt Room.
Trump's decision has also sparked widespread opposition from his own party, including close allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham. The senator from South Carolina has called on the president to change course.
Esper said he spoke to Trump on Saturday night amid growing signs that the Turkish invasion was becoming more dangerous.
"In the last 24 hours, we learned that they likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned — and to the west," Esper said.
U.S. allies and aid organizations have pushed for an end to the Turkish invasion, which has surfaced fears of a new humanitarian crisis in the region and a resurgent ISIS threat. France and Germany suspended arms sales to Turkey on Saturday in response to the invasion.
Over 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around the northeast Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain due to the conflict, according to the United Nations.
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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