Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

Donald Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks Syrian Kurds

The US president says US troops will remain across the border in Iraq to enforce a 20 mile safe zone

Donald Trump sent a warning to Ankara as the US begins withdrawing troops from northeast Syria. Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo
Donald Trump sent a warning to Ankara as the US begins withdrawing troops from northeast Syria. Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

Donald Trump has threatened Nato ally Turkey with economic devastation if Ankara attacks the Kurds after the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

The US President announced on Twitter on Sunday that the US had begun withdrawing its approximately 2000 troops from northeast Syria but said the US would maintain forces in neighbouring Iraq.

The troops in Syria have been supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fight ISIS, but with the militant group all but defeated, the US president made the surprise announcement of a total US withdrawal on December 19.

That left the US’ Syrian Kurdish allies fearful of an attack by Turkey. Ankara views the Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of the SDF as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an outlawed group listed as a terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the US.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to "crush" Kurdish fighters in Syria.

A US armoured vehicle is parked near Manbij, north Syria on April 4, 2018. AP
A US armoured vehicle is parked near Manbij, north Syria on April 4, 2018. AP

But Mr Trump attempted to reassure both Syrian Kurds and observers worried about a potential ISIS resurgence, saying US troops would remain across the border in Iraq to enforce a 20 mile safe zone.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone....”

The US President did not elaborate on the reach or purpose of the proposed safe zone, but continued on the topic in a following tweet.

“....Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was optimistic Syrian Kurds could be protected while also assuring Turkey of its right to defend itself against what it sees as terrorists.

"We are confident we can achieve an outcome that achieves both of those," Mr Pompeo told journalists in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Pompeo is currently on a Middle East tour to reassure American allies that the US withdrawal from Syria won't affect the war against ISIS or efforts to restrain Iranian regional influence.

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