Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks Kurds

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, reiterated in a response to Mr Trump’s tweets that Turkey considered the Kurdish fighters terrorists. “Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda,” he wrote.

Turkey, which has said it is planning an assault on Islamic State and Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, contends that the Kurdish fighters in Syria are part of a front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

In his tweets, Trump also mentioned striking the Islamic State from an “existing nearby base” if the group reappears after the US withdrawal, something analysts have feared if US forces hastily leave the country.

The Pentagon has suggested positioning Special Operations troops in nearby Iraq, where they could attack in Syria if needed. There is heavy fighting in Syria around the town of Hajin, where Islamic State militants still hold some territory. The areas they control have been reduced to a few villages, after the group once held a swath of land roughly the size of Britain.

Mr Trump’s tweets are just one more wrinkle in a process racked with conflicting statements and uncertain timelines after the president announced a pullout of Syria within 30 days late last month.

His decision prompted the resignation of two top administration officials, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

Mr Trump later agreed to give the military about four months to withdraw. And a week ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the withdrawal was conditional, insinuating that US troops could potentially be on the ground even longer.

On Friday, a vaguely worded statement from the US military headquarters in Baghdad, which oversees the fight against the Islamic State, said the withdrawal of the roughly 2000 US troops in Syria had begun. Military officials later clarified that only equipment had left the country and not troops.

The New York Times