October 19, 2019, 12:46

After backlash, Trump defends Syria moves as he both praises and threatens Turkey

After backlash, Trump defends Syria moves as he both praises and threatens Turkey

President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended himself against the accusation he has abandoned Kurdish fighters in Syria as Turkey prepares for an invasion — using a series of tweets to lavish praise both on the Kurds and Turkey.

Trump tweeted that, while the United States “may be in the process of leaving Syria … in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters.”

The president has faced harsh criticism from across the political spectrum — including from usually staunch Republican allies in the Senate — for the White House’s announcing Sunday night that the United States would stand aside while Turkey proceeded with an operation in northern Syria.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with senior military leaders including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark A. Milley, seated next to Trump, in the Cabinet Room of the White House Oct. 7, 2019.

Trump and the Pentagon on Monday tried to clean up that statement — which made no mention of the Kurds, who have been fighting ISIS alongside the United States — by praising the Kurds and clarifying the United States did not endorse a Turkish operation. Trump threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the country “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

DHA via AP

Turkish forces artillery pieces are seen on their new positions near the border with Syria in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, Oct. 6, 2019.

(MORE: Republicans slam Trump’s decision on US forces in Syria that puts allies at risk)

On Tuesday, Trump attempted to keep that delicate balance between supporting Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, and the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey considers terrorists.

While he reissued a threat to Turkey — saying that “any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency” — he also noted the United States has had a “very good” relationship with Turkey and that he had invited its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to the White House next month.

(MORE: Turkey begins mobilizing against Syria; US begins removing forces from area)

Trump also noted Turkey had been a “big trading partner of the United States” and had freed an American pastor imprisoned there. While he noted Turkey participates in the F-35 fighter jet program, the United States actually announced this year it would be kicking Turkey out of that program for purchasing a Russian missile defense system.

Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

A Syrian boy watches as Turkish military vehicles, part of a U.S. military convoy, take part in joint patrol in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha along the border with Turkey, Oct. 4, 2019.

Meanwhile, in the Turkish capital Tuesday, the Turkish vice president said his country would not give in to threats over its Syria plans, apparently responding to Trump’s Monday comments, according to the Associated Press. “Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said, according to the AP.

Sourse: abcnews.go.com

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