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Trump warns Turkey over attacking Kurdish forces in Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan are pictured during the opening ceremony of the summit of the NATO military alliance, Wednesday July 11, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Erdogan has invited President Trump to visit Turkey. (Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that the United States will “devastate Turkey economically” if Ankara attacks U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Turkey has threatened to attack the United States’ Kurdish allies fighting Islamic State (IS) militants. Ankara views them as terrorists with ties to insurgents within Turkey.

In a tweet on January 13, Trump also warned the Kurdish forces not to “provoke Turkey.”

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Trump said the United States had started what he called the “long, overdue pullout” from Syria while going after IS militants in the remaining territory they hold.

AP quoted unnamed U.S. defense officials as saying they had begun withdrawing shipments of military equipment.

In coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart.

Writing on Twitter on January 14, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was a “fatal mistake” to equate Syrian Kurds with Kurdish militants. He also said Turkey expected the United States to honor their strategic partnership.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that Turkey expected the United States “to honor our strategic partnership” and didn’t want the United States “to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda.”

Ibrahim Kalin said that “there is no difference” between IS militants, Turkey-based militants in the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish opposition Democratic Union Party (PYD), and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militants in the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG).

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“We will continue to fight against them all,” Kalin said.

Trump’s decision to leave Syria shocked U.S. allies and angered the Kurds in Syria.

It also prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress.