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
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' 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.

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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 PompeoOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Trump defense chief: US may send more troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions Pompeo slams 'unconscionable' release of 'American Taliban' 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.