United States President Donald Trump on Thursday claimed that the country’s military forces had left Syria only after defeating the Islamic State terrorist group. Trump has faced criticism for leaving the Kurdish forces, who were US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, to fend for themselves in the face of Turkey’s military onslaught in northern Syria.

“We did our job perfectly!” tweeted the US president. “Now Turkey is attacking the Kurds, who have been fighting each other for 200 years.” He added that the US had three choices – deploy thousands of troops “and win militarily”, cause financial problems for Turkey by imposing sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds.

Later in the day, Trump told reporters that the third option was his preferred choice, PTI reported. “Perhaps the last one, I hope,” he added. “I hope the last one. Of the three, I hope it’s going to be the last one.”

On Wednesday, the US had said it did not give Turkey the go-ahead for the military offensive. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump’s decision to withdraw soldiers from the border, saying Turkey had a “legitimate security concern” and “a terrorist threat to their south”. Trump said he hoped Turkey would “act rationally” during the operation and reiterated his threat to take action against its economy.

The decision, however, was criticised by both Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party, and allies in the Republican Party.

“News from Syria is sickening,” Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican Congressman in the House of Representatives, tweeted on Wednesday. “Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand Donald Trump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.” She called Trump’s decision a “catastrophic mistake”.

Forida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the damage to US “reputation and national interest will be extraordinary and long lasting”.

Former US vice president and Democratic presidential nomination contender Joe Biden on Thursday accused Trump of selling out “the courageous Kurds and Arabs who fought with America to smash ISIS’s caliphate”.

“His sad attempt to excuse the betrayal – saying that the Kurds didn’t fight with us at Normandy 75 years ago in World War 2 –
adds insult to very real injury,” Biden added. “He betrayed our word as a nation – raising doubts among our allies around the world about America’s security commitments. And he betrayed our security by green lighting a Turkish incursion that will create chaos and destruction, setting conditions for ISIS to regrow.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the main objective of the mission will be to prevent the setting up of a terror corridor across the country’s southern border. The Turkish president has said his country will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and free local communities from the control of terrorists. They will also establish a “safe zone” to allow Syrian refugees to return home,” he added.

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