In Brief

Trump defends Syria withdrawal amid widespread condemnation

US president threatens to ‘totally destroy and obliterate Turkey's economy’

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” Turkey's economy if it does anything he considers “off limits” after his unexpected decision to pull US forces out of north-eastern Syria.

Trump has angrily defended his controversial withdrawal, which CNN says “threatens to wreck almost every goal the US has in the Middle East just now”. He took the decision to withdraw against the advice of senior officials in the Pentagon and state department.

Turkey is preparing to launch an operation without US support in northern Syria. The US withdrawal, which would allow Turkey to attack the US-backed Kurdish forces it regards as terrorists, has been criticised widely. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces says Trump is leaving the area to “turn into a war zone”.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)

“They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The US has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate.”

Earlier, he had said it was time “to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal” and that “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out”.

Sky News says the move “was met with near universal astonishment”. The US’s former Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said: “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back.”

CNN reports that many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also criticised Trump’s decision, including Republican senator Lindsey Graham. He said the “impulsive” move was “shortsighted and irresponsible” and threw the region into “further chaos”.

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said a “precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime”. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president “must reverse this dangerous decision”, which she called “reckless” and “misguided”.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s army says preparations are complete for a military incursion into northern Syria.  A spokesman said: “The Turkish Armed Forces will never tolerate the creation of a terror corridor at our borders. All preparations for the operation have been completed.”

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