President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / KEVIN LAMARQUE
President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / KEVIN LAMARQUE

Washington — US President Donald Trump on Monday justified his decision to withdraw US troops from Turkey’s border with Syria, saying the US  needed to get out of “ridiculous, endless wars”.

The US withdrawal from key positions along Syria's northern border, announced late on Sunday, marks a major policy shift and effectively abandons the Kurds, who were Washington's main ally in the  battle against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

The president has also drawn fierce criticism from congressional allies over the decision.  Senator Lindsey Graham, a  Republican who is normally a close Trump ally, said on Monday he would introduce bipartisan legislation to sanction Turkey if it invades Syria and suspend it from Nato if it attacks Kurdish forces. 

“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured IS  fighters in their neighbourhood,” Trump tweeted.

“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so,” he said. “They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”

He added that if Turkey takes any action he considers “in his unmatched wisdom” to be off limits he will “obliterate Turkey’s economy”. 

The US leader again insisted that “100% of the IS caliphate” had been defeated, but warned that the US would “crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led militia that controls much of northeastern Syria, said early on Monday in a statement that “US forces withdrew from the border areas with Turkey”.

On Sunday, the White House said of a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara would “soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria" — and that US forces would "no longer be in the immediate area”.

Turkey’s lira slid to its lowest level against the dollar in more than a month on Monday. 

Investors have been closely watching tense ties between Ankara and Washington in recent months, with the Nato allies at odds over a range of issues, including policy differences in Syria and Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile defence systems.

The lira declined about 1.5%, trading at 5.7880, after closing at 5.7000 on Friday. Earlier on Monday, it slipped as far as 5.7970, its weakest level since September 3.

“While the statement from the US gives a green light to the military operation in Syria that Turkey has mentioned for a long time, it leaves many question marks regarding how the process will develop,” said a forex trader, who did not want to be named.

Turkey’s lira lost nearly 30% against the dollar in 2018, over concerns about political interference with monetary policy, as well as a deterioration in ties between Washington and Ankara. It is down about 8% in 2019.

Turkey’s BIST100 main share index was down 0.09%, while the banking index declined 1.07%.

Reuters, AFP