US President Donald Trump is “fully prepared” to take military action if needed with regards to Turkey’s recent attacks on Kurds in northeast Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday.
Kurdish-allied forces, backed by American troops, had been a strategic US partner in the fight against ISIS in northeastern Syria before Turkey launched an offensive in the area.
“We prefer peace to war… But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action,” Pompeo told CNBC’s Wilfred Frost in a taped interview.
A week ago, the Pentagon said Trump had ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria as Turkish troops advanced into Syrian territory.
The decision was criticized by many US lawmakers, and the Syrian Democratic Forces who were backed by US troops and considered the move a “stab in the back.”
“We jointly took down the threat of the Caliphate of ISIS,” Pompeo said. “It was to the benefit of the SDF, it was to the benefit of the United States of America, and indeed, to the benefit of the world. The commitment that we made to work alongside them we completely fulfilled.”
Turkey launched a cross-border incursion into Syria on October 9, after Trump said he would pull back US Special Forces in the Kurdish-held north.
After the violence killed scores from both sides and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes, a US-brokered ceasefire was announced late Thursday.
Trump had said that imposing sanctions on Turkey would be better than fighting in the region.
With lawmakers in the US Congress moving to impose sanctions of their own, Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against current and former officials of the Turkish government for contributing to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.
In a statement, Trump said he had increased tariffs on imports of Turkish steel back up to 50 percent, six months after they were reduced, and would immediately stop negotiations on what he called a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey.
“You suggested the economic powers that we’ve used. We’ll certainly use them. We’ll use our diplomatic powers as well. Those are our preference,” Pompeo said.
More recently, the US said that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia would withdraw from the area and Washington would not slap any further sanctions if Turkey ceased fighting.
Pence said the US would lift all of the sanctions, including those slapped on Turkish ministers, following the withdrawal and a complete end to Turkey’s military operation.
According to a military source, the deadline for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from areas in northeastern Syria expires at 1900 GMT Tuesday, as part of a 120-hour suspension agreed between Ankara and Washington.
- With AgenciesSHOW MORE