Trump: US doesn't 'endorse' Turkey's assault on Syria

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (October 9, 2019) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S. does not endorse Turkey's military assault on Syria, calling the operation a "bad idea."

Trump's written statement was issued hours after Turkey, a NATO ally, launched an offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, who have helped the U.S. against the Islamic State but are viewed by Turkey as terrorists. Trump's recent decision to pull back U.S. troops leaves those fighters vulnerable.

"The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea," Trump said.

He said no American soldiers are in the area.

"From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars — especially those that don't benefit the United States," Trump added. "Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place_and we will hold them to this commitment."

He said the U.S. will monitor the situation closely.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump lashed out over sharp criticism of his decision to pull back U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, insisting he is focused on the "BIG PICTURE" that doesn't include American involvement in "stupid endless wars" in the Middle East.

"Fighting between various groups that has been going on for hundreds of years. USA should never have been in Middle East," Trump said in a series of tweets. "The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!"

Trump's words are at odds with longstanding U.S. policy of keeping thousands of American troops in the strategically important region, and his decision is being condemned by some of his staunchest Republican allies.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close Trump ally, stepped up his criticism of the president Wednesday, telling "Fox & Friends" that if Trump "follows through with this, it would be the biggest mistake of his presidency."

In tweets, Graham urged prayers for "our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration," adding, "This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS." He also said he would lead an effort in Congress to "make Erdogan pay a heavy price," referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Another Trump ally, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP leadership, said she was sickened by the prospect of a Turkish incursion. "Impossible to understand," she tweeted, why Trump "is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS."

Trump argued on Twitter that "GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!" He said the U.S. went to war under a "false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were NONE!"

Trump said he is "slowly & carefully" bringing home "our great soldiers & military," in line with his campaign promise to do so.

His call for ending U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and bringing the troops home was a feature of his presidential campaign, but it flies in the face of many decades of bipartisan American policy, even as the Trump administration and its immediate predecessor have tried to give additional attention to what they see as long-term security threats elsewhere, including from China and Russia.

The U.S. has more than 10,000 troops based across the Middle East, including about 5,200 in Iraq, 1,000 in Syria and several thousand others at bases in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Also, the U.S. Navy's Mideast headquarters is at Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.

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