President Donald Trump on Thursday compared the attack by the Turkish military on Syrian Kurds, onetime American allies in the fight against ISIS, to a schoolyard fight after praising a ceasefire agreed to earlier in the day.
While speaking at a rally in Dallas, Trump described his approach to the situation between the Turks and Kurds – a long-simmering conflict that exploded into a military attack after the President gave the green light to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month – as “unconventional.”
“Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while,” Trump said.
“Sometimes you have to let them fight. It’s like two kids in a lot, you got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.”
Trump was praising the deal reached earlier in the day between Vice President Mike Pence and Erdogan during negotiations in the Turkish capital of Ankara. The deal appears to secure for Turkey most of its military objectives, forcing America’s onetime allies in the fight against ISIS – Kurdish forces – to cede a vast swath of territory, with one senior US official very familiar with operations in Syria telling CNN that the deal meant the US was “validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population.” The deal institutes a 120-hour ceasefire in which Kurdish forces must withdraw.
The deal was reached 11 days after the White House announced that American forces in northern Syria would move aside in anticipation of the Turkish offensive, a major shift in US policy. The move effectively gave the green light for the Turks to attack the Syrian Democratic Forces, who were some of the US’ most staunch allies in the fight against ISIS in the region. The decision came after a call between Trump and Erdogan.
The move led to a chorus of criticism from both sides of the aisle in Washington and panic from Kurdish forces in Syria. Trump has defended the move by saying the Kurds are “not angels” and stating American troops are not meant to be policing Middle Eastern affairs.
Trump called the fighting in Syria “pretty vicious” during the rally in Dallas.
“It’s not fun having bullets going all over the place, and we went there (and) we said we want a pause,” Trump said.