US has not abandoned the Kurds in Syria, says Trump

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 00:00 |
Syrian Kurds take part in a demonstration against Turkish threats at a US-led international coalition base on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria’s Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on Monday. Photo/AFP

Washington, Tuesday

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the US has not “abandoned” its Kurdish allies inside Syria, continuing to give a mixed message to Turkey.

“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 tweeted.

The US leader had on Monday threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if the country goes “off-limits” following his surprise decision to pull US forces out of north-eastern Syria.

In a series of angry tweets on Monday, Trump defended his move, which could open the way for Turkey to launch an attack on Kurdish fighters across the border.

The withdrawal was heavily criticised even by Trump’s Republican allies.

Trading partner

However, on Tuesday while explaining his off-limits tweet, Trump insisted that Washington has an important relationship with NATO member and trading partner Turkey.

He also said that “any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey” would prompt “devastating” consequences for the country’s economy.

Kurdish forces were key US allies in defeating Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

But Turkey regards the Kurdish militias, which dominate the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as terrorists.

The US has some 1,000 troops across Syria, but only about two dozen had been pulled out from the border area, according to a senior state department official.

Trump initially tweeted on Monday he had been elected on “getting out of these ridiculous endless wars” and that “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out”.

This had followed a phone call on Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after which the White House said Turkey would be “moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria” and US forces would “no longer be in the immediate area”.

Following accusations from US Kurdish allies they had been “stabbed in the back” and criticism from across the US political spectrum, Trump sent out more tweets later on Monday, warning Turkey not to take advantage of his decision, saying he could “destroy and obliterate” its economy.

Last year, the US raised tariffs on some Turkish products and imposed sanctions on top officials as relations between the two Nato countries worsened over a number of issues.

Meanwhile, Britain on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” by Turkey’s plans to target Kurdish militants in northern Syria, telling Ankara it would not support the move.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the troop withdrawal was a matter for Washington.

But he said London had been “consistently clear with Turkey that unilateral military action must be avoided as it would destabilise the region” and threaten efforts to defeat the so-called Islamic State jihadist group.                  — Agencies

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