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'Do people really think we should go to war with NATO member Turkey?' Trump defends Syria withdrawal

'Do people really think we should go to war with NATO member Turkey?' Trump defends Syria withdrawal
The US won't fight fellow NATO member Turkey over the Kurds in Syria, President Donald Trump has said, while also suggesting the Kurds may be releasing terrorist prisoners just to get the US involved.

In early Monday tweets, Trump defended his decision to hastily pull American troops and negotiators from the north of Syria, where a Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters is in full swing. Trump's critics have called the move a betrayal of the Kurds, who up to recently had been America's principal allies on the ground in Syria. Kurdish leaders have now turned to Damascus, striking a deal that will see Syrian government troops deployed to the area.

Still, Trump doesn't think these allies are worth fighting another NATO member over. "Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey?" he tweeted, repeating the threat of "big sanctions on Turkey."

The Kurds "may be releasing some" of their Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL/ISIS) prisoners specifically to get the Americans involved, Trump speculated. Earlier, a senior commander of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, the main Kurdish military force in the region) did say guarding IS prisoners will no longer be "top priority" in the face of the Turkish offensive. Separate Kurdish-sourced reports said hundreds of IS-affiliated prisoners already escaped when prisons came under Turkish fire.

However, the escapees aren't a US concern, Trump said, instead chiding Europe for missing the "chance to get their ISIS prisoners" earlier and for relying instead on the US to "pay the cost." Kurdish forces are reportedly holding up to 100,000 IS fighters and members of their families, captured during operations in Syria.

The operation in Syria has already pitted Turkey against its NATO allies, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan implying that other alliance members are supporting "terrorists" (the official Turkish stance on Kurdish fighters) instead of a fellow member state.

Also on rt.com ‘Are you with us or with terrorists?’ Erdogan lashes out at NATO allies for failure to back Turkey’s Syria op

Operation Spring of Peace saw Turkish forces cross over into northern Syria last week, with a stated goal of advancing some 30-35km into its territory to clear it of Kurdish terrorists. Ankara says it wants to create a buffer zone to prevent Kurds from infiltrating into Turkish land.

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