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Trump threatens to punish Turkey if it does anything ‘off limits’

President Trump on Monday defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria as Turkey plans to launch a military operation in the region, tweeting that he would “obliterate” Ankara’s economy if it acts in a way he deems inappropriate.

The president, in a series of tweets, threatened to punish Turkey if it did anything “off limits” and insisted that the U.S. military could “always go back & BLAST” if needed. 

“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!),” Trump tweeted, referencing his past implementation of tariffs that hampered an already scuffling Turkish economy.

Trump added that Turkey and others must “watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families,” and claimed the U.S. has captured “100% of the ISIS Caliphate.”

“It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory,” Trump tweeted.

Trump also tweeted that the decision was a fulfillment of his campaign pledge to extricate the U.S. from “endless wars, where our great Military functions as a policing operation to the benefit of people who don’t even like the USA.

The endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING!” he tweeted. “We will be focused on the big picture, knowing we can always go back & BLAST!”

Trump claimed that China and Russia were the “most unhappy” about the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the region, even though Russia has aligned itself with the Assad regime in Syria that the U.S. opposes.

The tweets appeared to be an effort to smooth over criticism from numerous Republican and Democratic lawmakers who warned that withdrawing U.S. forces from the region could leave the U.S.’s Kurdish allies vulnerable to a slaughter, damage America’s relationship with its partners in the region and lay the foundation for a resurgence of ISIS.

The White House announced late Sunday that Turkey will soon be launching a military operation in northern Syria and that U.S. troops will no longer be “in the immediate area” when it happens. The U.S. had more than 1,000 troops deployed in northern Syria, working closely with the Kurdish-led forces. 

Multiple press reports early Monday indicated that U.S. troops had already started their withdrawal. The decision poses dangers for the Kurds, which Turkey views as a terrorist group.

Republican lawmakers lined up to criticize the decision. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “disaster in the making” and promised a Senate resolution opposing it. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) described the move as a “betrayal,” Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) lamented the move as a “grave mistake,” and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called it “terribly unwise.”

Trump has long argued against U.S. involvement in military conflicts abroad, and has indicated his desire to get out of Syria at various times during his presidency. In December, he declared that the U.S. had defeated ISIS and that American troops would be coming home.

The decision triggered the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis and drew GOP rebukes. The withdrawal was ultimately delayed, with some U.S. forces remaining in the region.

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