Trump Gave Permission For Turkey To Attack Kurds Before Speaking To Advisers
President Donald Trump’s phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Sunday night was meant to ease the Turkish leader’s anger over being skipped for a one-on-one with Trump during September's U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York City.
But according to current and former officials who spoke with NBC News, the conversation went in a different direction, with Erdogan “adamant about Turkey going into Syria, officials said. Even Trump's offer of a White House visit wasn't enough to deter him.”
Trump reportedly told Erdogan “that a moderate incursion, such as clearing out a safe zone, would be acceptable” but that anything more would be problematic and result in a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.
Immediately following the phone call — which was also attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney called Defense Secretary Mark Esper to inform him of Trump’s decision.
Then, in the early morning hours, local time, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Gen. Mazloum Kobani, was notified that U.S. troops would withdraw by order of the president.
"This decision, this is something we don't expect at all," Kobani said during an interview with NBC News.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced in a Sunday statement that "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and U.S. forces "will not support or be involved in the operation" and "will no longer be in the immediate area.”
The decision shocked everyone, both at home and abroad: “According to multiple current and former U.S. officials, the White House's announcement of the decision late Sunday night blindsided not just America's Kurdish partners in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS, in Syria, but almost everyone — senior officials at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East.”