Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris Mnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book MORE on Monday said that President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips 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.
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."
Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS 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. Create 20 mile safe zone....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2019
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."