Trump threatened to 'devastate' a NATO ally's economy and his State Department has no idea that means
- President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to "economically" devastate Turkey, a NATO ally, but Trump's own State Department said it had no knowledge of any such plans.
- Trump said Turkey would pay if it attacked the Kurds, an ethnic group that's proved one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIS, but is treated by Turkey as a terror group.
- Trump's Syria policy has been attacked by national security experts as incoherent.
President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to "economically" devastate Turkey, a NATO ally, but Trump's own State Department said it had no knowledge of any such plans.
"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," Trump tweeted. "Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds."
The Kurds, an ethnic group present in five countries, including Turkey, across the Middle East, proved one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIS, holding their own ground and destroying the terror group's grip on its territory in Iraq and Syria.
But Turkey considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to be a terrorist group, and has previously pledged to drive them out. International human rights groups have criticized Turkey's treatment of the Kurds, and under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the government has cracked down on all voices of dissent or disagreement on the Kurdish issue.
Without a US presence in the region, many have worried that the Kurds, who trained and fought alongside the US, would be sitting ducks for Turkey's airstrikes and ground forces.
The US has sought multiple times to protect the Kurds and gain assurances from Turkey that the US-allies would be safe, but seemingly failed on that front.
Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton personally traveled to Turkey to try to gain assurances from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Erdogan said Turkey could not make any compromises and Bolton had made "a serious mistake."
Does the State Department know about this? No.
Trump on Sunday offered up economic devastation as a possible lever in the dispute with Turkey, but the State Department, which develops and implements sanctions, the usual tool of economic punishment, knew nothing about Trump's plans.
Asked what Trump meant by economic devastation for Turkey, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a reporter they'd have to ask Trump himself.
"We've applied sanctions in many places around the world. I assume he's speaking about those kinds of things, but you'd have to ask him," said Pompeo.
Trump's planned Syria pullout has met with wide criticism from both major US parties as the narrative over the announced pullout has shifted wildly.
National security experts on both sides of the aisle accused Trump of having incoherent policy on Syria.
The Turkish lira currency slid after Trump's tweets. In August, the lira dove in value under threat of US sanctions and due to financial mismanagement.
Turkey remains vulnerable to US sanctions but is a pivotal NATO ally that has accepted millions of Syrian refugees and kept them from traveling farther across Europe.
The US uses a NATO base in Turkey to fight ISIS and holds a stockpile of nuclear weapons there.
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