Trump calls US troop withdrawal from Syria ‘strategically brilliant’
Washington — US President Donald Trump on Wednesday played down the crisis in Syria touched off by Turkey’s incursion against US-allied Kurdish forces, and described the US's troop pullback a “strategically brilliant” move.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said imposing US sanctions on Turkey would be better than having US forces fighting in the region, adding that he was confident about the safety of US nuclear weapons in Turkey.
“I’d always rather use economic power before I use military power,” Trump said.
Kurdish-allied forces, backed by American troops, had been a strategic US partner in the fight against Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria before Turkey launched an assault in the area following a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump last week.
The Kurds are “not angels”, Trump said. “They fought with us. We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us, and that’s OK. They did well when they fought with us. They didn’t do so well when they didn’t fight with us.”
Trump has faced harsh criticism for his handling of the situation, including from fellow Republicans. He was scheduled to host congressional leaders at the White House later on Wednesday as lawmakers ready sanctions against Ankara.
“I viewed the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be for the US strategically brilliant. Our soldiers are out of there. Our soldiers are totally safe. They’ve got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting,” he told reporters.
Erdogan, speaking to reporters in the Turkish parliament earlier on Wednesday, said he was re-evaluating his planned visit to Washington in November but may visit Russia.
“We’re watching and we’re negotiating and we’re trying to get Turkey to do the right thing, because we’d like to stop wars regardless,” Trump said, adding that it was “fine” for Russia to help Syria.