President Donald Trump on Wednesday absolved the United States of responsibility for Turkish attacks in Syria against U.S. allied Kurdish fighters, and said, “It’s not our problem.”
During an Oval Office meeting with Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, Trump pushed back on questions about the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and the apparent abandonment of U.S.-allied Kurds, according to ABC News. Of the Kurds, Trump said, “They’re not angels.”
"I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant," President Trump says amid bipartisan criticism of his administration's decision to withdraw U.S. troops https://t.co/G5REIbltay pic.twitter.com/G12ktXO4SX
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 16, 2019
“We are not a policing agent. It is time for us to go home,” Trump told reporters.
Amid concerns that a Turkish military offensive into northern Syria would include targeting the Kurds, Trump the U.S. is working with the Turkish government to get their cooperation.
“We’re trying to get Turkey to do the right thing. We want to get wars stopped,” Trump said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence are reportedly set to leave Washington later on Wednesday to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to negotiate a ceasefire.
“If Russia wants to get involved in Syria, that’s really up to them,” Trump said, following concerns of Russian forces filling the void after U.S. troops left Syria.
Trump told reporters the move to leave Syria was “strategically brilliant” for the U.S.
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney criticized the Trump administration’s move to negotiate with the Turkish government, according to ABC News.
“It’s too late for this kind of conversation. I mean I’m happy that they’re talking,” Romney said of the Pompeo and Pence’s planned trip to Turkey. “But my goodness, the lack of preparation and thinking about how we could have transitioned to a setting where we can protect the Kurds and also hopefully meet Turkey’s needs and interests; that’s something we should have considered a long time ago before we pulled our troops out.”
Romney continued, “But now, to go over and say let’s talk to Erdogan is like, ‘Hey guys, you let the horses out of the barn. This is, this is too late to be talking about locking the barn door.”
Trump reportedly planned to meet with congressional leader to discuss his handling of Syria. Romney is one of several congressional leaders, including many fellow Republicans who have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio raised concerns that Turkish military may be preparing to commit acts of genocide against the Kurds and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that the U.S. withdrawal raised the potential resurgence of the Islamic State in Syria.
The absence of U.S. forces has indeed made room for not only Turkish forces, but Russian-backed Syrian forces challenging the Turkish military for control of northern Syria. Russian forces recently took over a hastily abandoned U.S. outpost and have stepped up patrols to counter Turkish actions in the region.
The U.S. withdrawal has also raised the risk that ISIS prisoners will escape from captivity under the watch of Kurdish fighters now threatened by Turkey’s military offensive.