Trump dismisses concerns about abandoning Kurds in Syria

As Turkey began its assault against America’s Kurdish allies on Wednesday, sending troops and warplanes across the border with Syria, President Trump dismissed concerns about what is widely characterized as a betrayal of the fighters who bore the brunt of the battle against ISIS.

“Alliances are very easy” to establish, Trump said in response to a question about whether pulling American troops out of the region — leaving the field clear for Turkey to attack their historic enemies — would make it harder to enlist allies in the future.

Trump spoke at a White House event where he signed an executive order on transparency in instituting new federal regulations.

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Photos from Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows smoke across the border in Syria
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Photos from Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows smoke across the border in Syria
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows smoke rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows buses carrying Syrian rebel fighters and civilians travelling near the border in southwestern Syria, on their way to opposition-held territory in the northern Idlib province. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows smoke rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a bus carrying Syrian rebel fighters and civilians travelling near the border in southwestern Syria, on their way to opposition-held territory in the northern Idlib province. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a bus carrying Syrian rebel fighters and civilians travelling near the border in southwestern Syria, on their way to opposition-held territory in the northern Idlib province. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
UN peacekeepers look out towards Syria from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on July 22, 2018. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
UN peacekeepers look out towards Syria from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on July 22, 2018. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
UN peacekeepers look out towards Syria from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on July 22, 2018. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows smoke rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 22, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows a smoke plume rising across the border in Quneitra in southwestern Syria, as rebels destroy their arms stocks prior to their departure. - Rebel fighters and civilians began on July 20 evacuating from Quneitra province on their way to opposition territory further north in Idlib province under a surrender deal agreed between Russia and the rebels, seeing the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 20, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows Syrians packing their belongings and loading them on vehicles as they prepare to leave the village of Qahtaniyah, near the border in southwestern Syria. - The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 20, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows Syrian rebel fighters driving a pick-up truck carrying an anti-aircraft gun in the village of Qahtaniyah, near the border in southwestern Syria. - The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 20, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows Syrian children play as others prepare to leave the village of Qahtaniyah, near the border in southwestern Syria. - The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 20, 2018 from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights shows Syrians packing their belongings and loading them on vehicles as they prepare to leave the village of Qahtaniyah, near the border in southwestern Syria. - The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
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After a phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan Sunday, Trump ordered the immediate withdrawal of the token American force that had been stationed in northern Syria, serving as a tripwire against Turkey’s long-standing desire to eliminate the Kurdish presence on their border. The Kurds, an ethnic group in a region that spans Turkey, northern Syria and Iraq, have fought alongside Americans in the war on ISIS for years. But their long-standing goal of carving out a national state in the region is strongly opposed by Turkey, which regards at least some of their forces as terrorists.

Within a day of the American redeployment, Turkey began mobilizing for the attack.

Echoing a point raised earlier in a blog post by a right-wing commentator, Trump dismissed the Kurdish alliance with an inexplicable reference to World War II, and suggested that they are pursuing their own interests in the Mideast, not necessarily America’s:

“Now, the Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand, they are fighting for their land. And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy as an example, they mentioned the names of different battles, but they’re there to help us with their land, and that’s a different thing.

“In addition to that we have spent tremendous amounts of money in helping the Kurds,” Trump continued. “With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

He repeated his threat from Monday to “obliterate” the economy of Turkey with sanctions if — as some fear — they perpetrate a massacre of the Kurds.

The U.S. pullback, a sudden reversal of years of American policy, was met with unusually harsh and bipartisan criticism in Washington, including by Trump’s frequent defender Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said the Kurds had been “shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration.”

Asked about the fate of thousands of captured ISIS fighters who have been held prisoner by the Kurds, Trump said it wouldn’t be America’s problem:

“Well, they’re going to be escaping to Europe, that’s where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes but Europe didn’t want them from us, we could have given it to them, they could have had trials, they could have done whatever they wanted. But as usual, it’s not reciprocal. You know, my favorite word, ‘reciprocal.’ That’s all I want. I don’t want an edge, I just want reciprocal, it’s not a fair deal for the United States.”

Trump reminded reporters that scaling back America’s overseas commitments was one of his campaign promises.

“I campaigned on ending the endless wars. We’re all over the world fighting wars,” he said.

“People are saying, you’re doing the right thing.”

He ended his comments by invoking the American casualties of the ongoing fighting in the Mideast, with an implied rebuke to Graham, who he said “would like to stay there for the next 200 years.”

“It’s easy to talk tough, tough guys, all these tough guys, ‘let’s keep fighting, let’s keep fighting.’ If they had to go to Walter Reed, where they do unbelievable work…” Trump said, before trailing off into an anecdote about an injured soldier who had surgery to rebuild his nose.

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