Donald Trump has acknowledged a US-brokered ceasefire in northeastern Syria was at least temporarily disrupted by “minor sniper and mortar fire” after his decision to withdraw troops threw the region into violent instability.
The president posted a series of tweets on Friday claiming “big progress being made” in Syria a day after Mike Pence, the vice president and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, visited Turkey to map out a 120-hour ceasefire. The vice president announced the ceasefire on Thursday afternoon after five hours of negotiations with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan.
Despite reports of shelling in Syria, Mr Trump said the Turkish president “very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work”.
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“Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen,” he added. “Too bad there wasn’t this thinking years ago.”
His comments came as the US was in the process of withdrawing its troops from Syria. The president’s decision effectively allowed Turkey to begin an invasion into the area that included a massive offence against Kurdish fighters – who the US views as allied forces and Turkey views as being linked to terrorist groups.
Kurdish forces fought alongside US troops in the fight against Isis and have been described by military experts as the nation’s invaluable allies in the region. The Kurds lost some 11,000 fighters while eradicating the so-called Isis-controlled Caliphate, and battling terrorism.
The president described the region prior to his troop withdrawal as having been “held together with very weak band-aids” an “in an artificial manner”.
He also claimed there was “good will on both sides” and “a really good chance for success” despite the reported disruption of the previously announced ceasefire.
He also appeared to acknowledge reports of Isis detainees overseen by Kurdish forces having escaped prisons after the US allied troops fled from Turkey.
“The US has secured the Oil” and the “Isis fighter are double secured by Kurds [and] Turkey,” Mr Trump wrote.
He also claimed to have “just been notified that some European Nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the ISIS Fighters that came from their nations”.
He added: “This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them. Anyway, big progress being made!!!!”
On Friday even some Republicans took aim at the president: “Withdrawing US forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances,” Sen Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Friday in a Washington Post opinion column.
The Turkish president also tweeted following the announcement of the ceasefire on Thursday, saying “many more lives will be saved when we defeat terrorism, which is humanity’s arch enemy”.
That message received a support of praise from Mr Trump on Friday, who responded: “DEFEAT TERRORISM!”