WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump suggested Monday that Syria’s formerly US-allied Kurds could look to 19th century French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for protection after he ordered the departure of nearly 1,000 US troops from the country.
Turkey was threatening to invade northeastern Syria after launching a military assault on the Kurds last week, leaving more than 300 dead on both sides and sending 160,000 refugees fleeing.
“Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
He defended his weekend order to vacate northeastern Syria and abandon the Kurds, saying that the US mission to defeat Islamic State in the region had been achieved “100 percent.”
….and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019
The president said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should defend the region.
“Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?” Trump wrote.
Earlier Trump said he would issue new sanctions against Turkey, halting trade negotiations and raising steel tariffs, in an effort to pressure Ankara to stop its ongoing offensive attack in Syria against Kurdish forces.
Trump said he would soon will sign an executive order permitting sanctions to be imposed on current and former Turkish officials.
Before the invasion, Trump ordered a couple dozen US forces out of harm’s way. Critics said Trump’s decision gave Turkey a green light to go against the Kurds, who had helped the US battle Islamic State militants.
“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” he wrote on Twitter.
With 1,000 American troops preparing to now leave northern Syria, the president said he planned to keep them in the region to help prevent revival of Islamic State — a key concern following the troop pullout.
A US official said the Pentagon had begun removing all its troops in northern Syria after Trump ordered them to leave in the face of Turkey’s attacks.
Nearly 1,000 troops will vacate the country, leaving behind only a small contingent of 150 in the southern Syria base at Al Tanf, the official said.
“We are executing the order,” the official told AFP.
Syrian government troops moved into towns and villages in northeastern Syria on Monday, including the flashpoint region of Manbij, setting up a potential clash with Turkish-led forces advancing in the area as long-standing alliances in the region began to shift or crumble following the pullback of US forces.