Trump threatens to 'devastate' Turkey's economy if it attacks Syria's Kurds

Trump threatens to 'devastate' Turkey's economy if it attacks Syria's Kurds
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE on Sunday threatened to "devastate" Turkey's economy if it were to launch an attack on Kurdish fighters in Syria, as his administration prepares to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.

"Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds," Trump tweeted. 

The president also warned Kurdish fighters not to attack Turkey, and called for the establishment of a "safe zone" between Turkey and the U.S.-backed fighters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump's tweets came amid ongoing criticism of his decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, where they have been assisting Kurdish fighters battling ISIS. The president initially made the announcement on Dec. 19, and the White House said troops would be leaving within 30 days. 

The administration later extended the withdrawal timeline to four months. Top officials, including Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony MORE and national security adviser John Bolton, have been touring the Middle East in recent days in an effort to assuage nervous allies in the region.

Complicating matters is the fact that the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in Syria are considered by neighboring Turkey to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

Critics of the administration's decision have expressed concern that Turkey will use the U.S. withdrawal as an opportunity to attack the Kurdish fighters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month rejected Bolton's calls for the Kurdish fighters to be protected.

Since then, Pompeo has expressed optimism that a deal could be reached to ensure the Kurdish fighters' safety.