WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the US has not “abandoned” its Kurdish allies inside Syria, continuing to give a mixed message to Turkey.
“We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters,” Trump tweeted.
This followed Trump’s decision announced Sunday to remove US troops from a crucial area of the Turkey-Syria border, seemingly giving a green light for Turkey to conduct long-planned operations inside Syria against its Kurdish foes.
Given that those same Kurdish groups have fought alongside US forces against the Islamic State movement in Syria, Trump’s decision was seen by prominent figures of his own Republican party as a betrayal.
We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters. Likewise our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and Trading partner, has been very good. Turkey already has a large Kurdish population and fully….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2019
Trump sought to explain his position by stressing that Washington has an important relationship with NATO member and trading partner Turkey.
“So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States,” he said in another tweet.
Trump on Tuesday did not say he opposed any operation by Turkey against the Kurds, but warned that “unforced or unnecessary fighting” would prompt “devastating” consequences for the country’s economy and their “very fragile currency.”
“We are helping the Kurds financially/weapons!,” he added.
On Monday, Trump threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it did “anything outside of what we would think is humane.”
Earlier Tuesday Turkey said will not bow to threats over the scope of its planned military incursion into northeastern Syria.
In Ankara, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Turkey was intent on combating Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there.
“Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Oktay said.
Meanwhile Turkey’s defense ministry announced that preparations for the offensive have been “completed.”
The Syrian Kurdish force has pledged to fight back, raising the potential for an eruption of new warfare in Syria.
“We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Turkey, which considers Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists and links them to a decades-old insurgency in Turkey, has already launched two major incursions into northern Syria over the past years. The first was in 2016, when Turkey and Syrian opposition fighters it backs attacked areas held by the Islamic State group west of the Euphrates River. Last year Turkey launched an attack on the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 people.