(7 Oct 2019) President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.
“Well we’ve been in Syria for a long time and it was supposed to be a very short hit and hit on ISIS but it didn’t work out that way,” said Trump during a meeting Monday evening with military leaders at the White House.
“I was going to do this nine months ago. And we were not at 100 percent but we were pretty close everyone said can we get to 100 percent. Now I get to 100 percent and they say well maybe we could stay longer. I said well when do we get out?”
Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.
In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border.
As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.
The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies.
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