In Brief

Donald Trump condemned as Kurds flee bombing

US president accused of ‘stabbing Kurds in back’ through troop withdrawal

Donald Trump is fending off mounting criticism as the death toll mounts from a Turkish bombing campaign which has forced tens of thousands of Kurds to flee.

Two days into the offensive against the Kurds in north-east Syria, Turkish troops have surrounded the border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. International pressure is growing for Turkey to halt the attack, in which residential areas have been shelled and civilians killed.

Trump has been condemned for his decision to pull US troops out of the area, effectively allowing Turkey to launch its assault. The Kurdish militias of the Syrian Democratic Forces said Washington’s move meant they had been “stabbed in the back”, The Guardian reports, and an elderly Kurd civilian said “betrayal leaves the bitterest taste”.

The former top American general overseeing operations in the Middle East, Joseph Votel, has questioned the wisdom of Trump’s withdrawal. “The abrupt policy decision to seemingly abandon our Kurdish partners could not come at a worse time,” he wrote in The Atlantic.

The US president has sought to deflect the criticism, arguing that Turks and Kurds had been fighting for centuries, “and, bizarrely, that the Kurds had not helped the US in the second world war, at the Normandy landings”, says The Guardian.

A senior US official struck a different tone, saying the Turkish invasion “endangers our allies in the fight against terror... and creates tremendous insecurity for the entire region”.

Even some Republicans have admitted that Trump’s withdrawal effectively gave Turkey a green light, and are planning to introduce sanctions against Turkey with a bill in the House of Representatives. Congresswoman Liz Cheney said Turkey must face “serious consequences for mercilessly attacking our Kurdish allies” in the region.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is unrepentant in the face of international censure. He has said he will “open the gates” for Syrian refugees in his country, allowing 3.6 million to migrate to Europe if the continent’s leaders label Turkey’s military campaign in north-eastern Syria an “occupation”.

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