Trump on Turkey invading Syria: ‘It’s not our problem’
President Trump on Wednesday tried to further distance himself from his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, which cleared the way for the bloody invasion by Turkey that has turned into a humanitarian crisis and a disaster for the Kurds.
“It’s not our problem,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office before a bilateral meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella. “That’s between Turkey and Syria. It’s not between Turkey and Syria and the United States.”
Despite dismissing the violence as not a “problem” for the U.S., Trump has announced sanctions and tariffs intended to bring Turkey into negotiations for a cease-fire.
Trump said the Kurdish militia forces that fought alongside U.S. troops in the successful war against ISIS are “not angels — they’re not angels.” He added that the Kurds — who have been fleeing the Turkish invasion by the hundreds of thousands — “are much safer now.”
Trump admitted that the pullback will create a vacuum that Turkey and “probably Russia” will fill in northern Syria. The U.S. is “not a policing agent,” Trump said. “It’s time to go home.”
“I wish them all a lot of luck,” Trump added, “They’ve got a lot of sand over there. There’s a lot of sand they can play with.”
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in the Oval Office for Trump’s remarks, are preparing to travel to Ankara to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday. The White House said Pence plans to reiterate Trump’s “commitment to maintain punishing economic sanctions on Turkey until a resolution is reached.”
Erdogan, after reportedly telling reporters he wouldn’t speak with Pence, has agreed to meet with the delegation but has shown no willingness to commit to a cease-fire.
Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops, which he made after a phone call with Erdogan, was met with intense bipartisan criticism.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper admitted Sunday that the situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly and “gets worse by the hour.”
In an interview with “Fox & Friends” earlier this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been one of Trump’s strongest Republican allies in the Senate, said Kurdish fighters in Syria had been “shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration.”
Graham predicted Trump’s Syria withdrawal will “be the biggest mistake of his presidency.”
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