Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that President Trump will raise Turkey’s recent invasion of northern Syria in his meeting this week with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid bipartisan criticism of the meeting.
“We will talk about what transpired there and how we can do our level best collectively to ensure the protection of all of those in Syria, not just the Kurds, but everyone in Syria,” Pompeo told cadets at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, after delivering a speech there for Veterans Day.
President Trump announced last month that the U.S. will withdraw the American troops currently stationed in Syria, which total roughly 2,000, saying the Islamic State has been defeated in the region and he does not want the U.S. to “police” the area any longer. However, the president vowed to punish Turkey if the country takes any action the U.S. considers “off limits.”
Republican and Democratic critics of the move warned the withdrawal would make room for the ensuing Turkish invasion of the region and would leave the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have allied with U.S troops in fighting the Islamic State, open to attack.
After the U.S. troops were pulled back, Turkey launched an offensive into northeastern Syria against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, displacing 200,000 people and resulting in the deaths of at least 92 civilians amid the conflict.
However, Pompeo assured that U.S. forces continue to work with the largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces to prevent the spread of Islamic State terrorists.
“We’re still working with the SDF, the relationships are great. We have State Department officials on the ground with the SDF, even as we sit here today, working alongside them to continue the counter ISIS campaign,” the nation’s chief diplomat said.
A group of House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle wrote a letter on Friday calling on Trump t0 withdraw his invitation to Erdogan, citing Erdogan’s close collaboration with Russia as well as the “disastrous consequences for U.S. national security” Turkey’s invasion of Syria has catalyzed.