The U.S. said Washington succeeded in defeating Daesh with the joint efforts of the international coalition against the terror group, including others besides the YPG terrorists.
Underlining the success against Daesh achieved by the U.S. “along with many allies, dozens and dozens of countries,” he told PBS News Hour late on Wednesday: “I am confident we will continue to protect the American people from that terrorist threat.”
When asked whether the U.S. gave a green light to Turkey for the operation after a phone conversation between Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, he said such reports were “just false”.
“The United States didn’t give Turkey a green light,” Pompeo said.
In support of the U.S. president’s move to withdraw troops in northern Syria, he said: “The Turks have a legitimate security concern.”
“They [Turkey] have a terrorist threat to their south. We’ve been working to make sure that we did what we could to prevent that terror threat from striking the people in Turkey, while trying to achieve what is in America’s best interest,” he added.
Pompeo went on to say that the terror threat against the U.S. emanated not only from Syria but from a dozen other countries, stressing that Washington was prepared to overcome any challenge.
Arguing that Daesh would not reemerge as a result of the U.S. withdrawal, he said: “That is certainly not what I believe will happen.”
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.
On Wednesday, Erdogan announced the launch of Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terror elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
“If you listen to Erdogan, he wants to have people go back to where they came from. Go back to Syria,” said Trump in a press conference in the White House on Wednesday. “But we’ll see. We’ll see how he does it.”
Trump added that millions of Syrian refugees would be scattered around the world had Turkey not been hosting them.
“Right now, he’s [Erdogan] holding, in all fairness to him, he’s holding millions of people that would be all over the place if he wasn’t holding them,” said Trump.
“So, he wants to repatriate, he wants to have them go back into the area that he’s looking at.”
Trump also ripped his predecessor, Barack Obama, for what he said was the overt choice to partner with the PKK terror group.
“When President [Barack] Obama took the PKK, when they bring in PKK, that’s a tough deal, because that’s been a mortal enemy of Turkey,” Trump told reporters.
“So, when you bring them in into a partnership, it’s a tough situation. It’s tough for Turkey.”
The operation came after Trump announced the pullback of U.S. troops in northern Syria, saying Washington would not be engaged in the campaign and would no longer be in “the immediate area.”
Ankara has said the PKK terrorist group and its extension, the YPG/PYD, constitutes the biggest threat to Syria’s future, jeopardizing the country’s territorial integrity and unitary structure.
Terrorist threat to Turkey’s south
Turkey has a 566-mile (911-kilometer) border with Syria and it has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates and the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.
Turkey plans to resettle 2 million Syrians in a 19-milie (30-kilometer) wide safe zone to be set up in Syria, stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD, and YPG risk its formation.
Turkey has rid an area of 1,544 square miles (4,000 square kilometers) in Syria of terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations. Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria — Operation Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch — to purge the region of the terrorist groups Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the terrorist group PKK.
The two operations were in line with the country’s right to self-defense borne out of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, especially no. 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014), and under the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity.
During Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish forces neutralized 3,060 Daesh terrorists. Turkey has suffered greatly from Daesh attacks inside the country. More than 300 people have been killed in attacks claimed by Daesh in Turkey, where the terrorist group has targeted civilians in suicide bombings and armed attacks in recent years.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
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