WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday downplayed the escalating tensions in the Middle East in the aftermath of his abrupt withdrawal of American troops from northeastern Syria.
"It's not our border," Trump said speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, referring to Kurdish forces that, until recently, fought side by side with the United States forces as "no angels."
"If Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that's really up to them," Trump continued. "We shouldn't be losing lives over it."
"We're watching and we're negotiating and we're trying to get Turkey to do the right thing," the president added, describing the U.S.'s decision to leave the area as "strategically brilliant."
Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria this month has left the Middle East in chaos as Kurdish troops have felt abandoned by the U.S. and left struggling to fend off invading Turkish forces. The absence of the U.S. military has created a power vacuum in the region, allowing Russia to absorb the Kurdish forces and extend their influence in the area.
Trump's comments come as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Turkey later on Wednesday to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has rejected U.S. calls for a cease-fire in the escalating Syria conflict ahead of a meeting.
When asked by reporters about Pence's visit to Turkey, Trump expressed little concern and minimized the U.S.’s role in resolving the conflict.
"Our soldiers are out of there. Our soldiers are totally safe," Trump said. "They've got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting."
Trump also brushed off reports that the some members of the Islamic State have escaped from captivity.
"By the way, everybody hates ISIS," Trump said. "Some were released just for effect to make it look like ‘oh jee, we gotta get back in there.'"