Pompeo: Trump's threat to Turkey won't change troop pullout plans in Syria

Pompeo: Trump's threat to Turkey won't change troop pullout plans in Syria
© Greg Nash

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDonald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim US defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Kobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump MORE on Monday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE's threat that Turkey would face economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish fighters does not affect plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but acknowledged he had not spoken to the president about the comment.

The Associated Press reported that Pompeo was asked about the president's tweet warning Turkey against going after the Kurds while the secretary was in Riyadh as part of a tour through the Middle East. 

“We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things. You’ll have to ask him,” Pompeo said.

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He added that he had not spoken with Turkish leaders about the comment.

Pompeo said he does not believe the remark changes Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. The administration said last week that the withdrawal is contingent on the full defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and assurances that Turkey will not attack U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters.

Trump caused a stir in Ankara on Sunday night when he tweeted that the U.S. was starting "the long overdue pullout from Syria." He said American forces were continuing to attack ISIS, and warned it "will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds."

The AP reported that Turkish officials were caught off guard by Trump's threat, and chided him for speaking to an ally through social media. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu added that Turkey is “not afraid of any threat. You cannot achieve anything with economic threats.”

In an interview broadcast Sunday, Pompeo said that Trump previously spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about protecting Kurdish fighters. The group has created tensions between the NATO allies, as the U.S. has backed them in Syria while Ankara views them as part of a terrorist group.

A spokesman for U.S. coalition forces said Friday that the U.S. “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria. Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements."