US President Donald Trump on Sunday warned Turkey of economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish forces in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria, while also urging the Kurds not to “provoke” Ankara.
Trump took to Twitter to reveal some of his latest thoughts in the slow drip-drip of information being released by his administration after his shocking December announcement of the troop withdrawal, AFP reported.
His top diplomat Mike Pompeo is on a whirlwind regional tour aimed at reassuring allies amid rising tensions between the US and Turkey over the fate of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Pompeo also sought to reassure Washington’s Kurdish allies in the fight against IS, who fear the departure of American troops may allow Turkey to attack them.
Turkey had reacted angrily to suggestions that Trump’s plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, seen by the Turkish government as terrorists.
Ahead of Trump’s move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch another operation in Syria targeting the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Erdogan, who has welcomed the pullout plan, last week accused Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, of a “grave mistake” in demanding that Ankara provide assurances on the safety of the Kurdish fighters before Washington withdraws its troops.
“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile (30-km) “safe zone.”
“Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”
Trump did not detail who would create, enforce or pay for the safe zone, or where it would be located.
US-led operations against IS in Syria have been spearheaded on the ground by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the YPG, as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Still, an SDF official said on Sunday that IS militants are “living their final moments” in the last enclave they hold near the Iraqi border, where SDF forces are attacking them.
A defeat of the militants in the enclave would wipe out IS’s territorial foothold on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, Reuters said.
On Saturday, more than 600 people were evacuated from the remaining IS holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as US-backed fighters prepared for a final assault on the area.
“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” Trump said, using a different acronym for IS.
“Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long-term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said that several dozen militants were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.
Abdel Rahman said about 16,000 people, including 760 IS fighters, have fled the area since the start of December, though this marked the first time the SDF and the coalition provided buses, suggesting a deal was struck between the warring sides.
The United Nations said on Friday that overall about 25,000 people have fled the violence over the last six months as the die-hard militants have battled to defend their dwindling bastions.
An estimated 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin, the United Nations said.
The US-led coalition on Saturday fired more than 20 missiles against militant positions, the Observatory said.[source: Middle East Eye]