Hours after announcing his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria — provoking alarm and outrage among foreign policy experts, Republican officials and right-wing commentators who warn it could empower ISIS in the region — President Trump on Monday defended the move as an expression of his “great and unmatched wisdom.” He coupled it with a warning that he’d “totally destroy and obliterate” the economy of Turkey if he’s unhappy with how the country carries out its planned assault on Kurdish fighters.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” the president tweeted. “They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families.
“The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate,” Trump added. “It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”
Trump’s decision, announced by the White House late Sunday, came after a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who for months has been threatening a military operation across the border to clear out the Kurdish forces in Syria.
The Kurds, with U.S. backing, have been fighting the Islamist radicals of ISIS in northern Syria. But their long-term goal is to establish a Kurdish state in the region, which Turkey vehemently opposes.
The White House issued a statement Sunday evening saying U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area” of northern Syria.
The announcement was met with immediate blowback from some of Trump’s closest allies, who said it will endanger the lives of Kurds who have been fighting the Islamic State group in the region.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called it “a disaster in the making.”
Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States is effectively leaving the Kurds “to die.”
Brett McGurk, Trump’s former envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, tore into Trump in a series of scathing tweets.
“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” McGurk tweeted. “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”
Even Brian Kilmeade, co-host of Trump’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” was sharply critical of the president.
“We defeated the caliphate, the caliphate is destroyed, we would not have done that without the Kurds, who did all of our fighting,” Kilmeade said. “The reason why our casualties were so low is because the Kurds did all the fighting. Now we’re saying, ‘OK, Turks, go wipe them out or force them out.’ What kind of message is that to the next ally that wants to side with us?
“Are you kidding me?” Kilmeade continued. “We’re abandoning our most loyal allies, who did all our fighting. All we did was arm them and they did all the work, and now we say, ‘Good luck, good luck surviving.’ Disaster.”
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