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Trump threatens to punish Turkey if it does anything 'off limits'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE 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."

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"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 President Bashar Assad 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 America'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 GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country The Memo: Harris moves signal broad role as VP Former US attorney asks for probe of allegations Graham pressured Georgia official MORE (R-S.C.) called it a "disaster in the making" and promised a Senate resolution opposing it. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him WaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (R-Utah) described the move as a "betrayal." Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate to vote next week on blocking Trump's UAE arms sale GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight Pressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal MORE (R-Fla.) lamented the move as a "grave mistake." And Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (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 MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Biden under pressure to remove Trump transgender military ban quickly Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties MORE and drew GOP rebukes. The withdrawal was ultimately delayed, with some U.S. forces remaining in the region.