The Latest: Pence heads to Mideast as Turkey attacks Kurds
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the United States and the military withdrawal from northern Syria (all times local):
Vice President Mike Pence says he’s being dispatched to the Middle East by President Donald Trump as U.S. troops pull out of northeast Syria and Turkish forces invade.
Pence says Trump spoke with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Monday and called for an immediate end to Turkey’s moves against the Kurds in Syria.
Pence says the president is “very concerned about instability in the region” and is denying that Trump gave Turkey the green light to launch the invasion when he announced a troop pullout.
Pence says the U.S. is “simply not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any longer.”
Trump has slapped new sanctions on Turkey to pressure the country to halt an invasion that has opened the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and a leading Senate Republican want Congress to produce bipartisan legislation to “overturn” President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.
The California Democrat says the measure must be stronger than sanctions on Turkey Trump announced Monday. Turkey invaded northern Syria after Trump started pulling U.S. troops from the area.
Pelosi says she spoke Monday to South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.
He’s been drafting a bipartisan measure to bar weapons sales to Turkey and impose sanctions on the U.S. assets of Turkish leaders.
The top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have said they will introduce similar legislation.
Trump said Monday he was stopping trade talks with Turkey and boosting its steel tariffs, and would order sanctions on Turkish officials.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria threatens a “strategic calamity” and “catastrophic outcome” for American interests in the region.
Without mentioning President Donald Trump, the Kentucky Republican used a written statement Monday to criticize Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. forces from the area.
McConnell says he is “gravely concerned” about the move. It was his strongest criticism of Trump’s move and underscores near-solid bipartisan opposition in Congress.
McConnell says the withdrawal would let the Islamic State group rebuild and would boost Iran’s and Russia’s influence in the region. He said he anticipates discussing the problem with lawmakers and senior administration officials.
Turkish troops have launched attacks against Syrian Kurds, who had been the leading U.S. ally against the Islamic State.
President Donald Trump says the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops he has ordered to leave Syria will remain in the Middle East to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State threat.
In a written statement Monday announcing his authorization of economic sanctions on Turkey, Trump made clear that the withdrawing troops will leave Syria entirely.
He said the troops will “redeploy and remain in the region.” He described their mission as “monitoring the situation” and preventing a “repeat of 2014,” when IS fighters who had organized in Syria as a fighting force swept into neighboring Iraq and took control of Iraq’s north and west.
Trump confirmed that the small number of U.S. troops at a base in southern Syria will remain there.
President Donald Trump says he’s issuing new sanctions against Turkey, halting trade negotiations and raising steel tariffs in an effort to pressure Ankara to stop its ongoing offensive attack in Syria against Kurdish forces it views as a terrorist threat.
Trump says he soon will sign an executive order permitting sanctions to be imposed on current and former Turkish officials.
Before the invasion, Trump ordered a couple dozen U.S. forces out of harm’s way. Critics said Trump’s decision gave Turkey a green light to go against the Kurds, who had helped the U.S. battle Islamic State militants.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham says he’ll meet with President Donald Trump on Monday and plans to discuss sanctions against Turkey over its invasion into Syria.
The South Carolina senator last week was critical of Trump’s announcement about removing U.S. troops from Syria. On Monday, Graham blamed Turkey for the turmoil in Syria, saying Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) “made the biggest mistake of his political life” and “brought this on himself.”
Graham tells Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” there will be “crippling sanctions” from Congress that will “break” Turkey’s economy and “crush Erdogan until he stops the bloodshed.” Graham says Republicans, Democrats and the Trump administration will hit Erdogan “like a ton of bricks.”
Syrian Kurdish forces previously aligned with the U.S. say they’ve reached a deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad to help fend off Turkey’s invasion.
Graham says the alliance between the Kurds and Assad is “not good” for the United States. He says “Assad equals Iran” and “The last thing you want to do is to let Iran become more powerful in northeastern Syria.”
The United States appears to be heading toward a full military withdrawal from Syria amid growing chaos , cries of betrayal and signs that Turkey’s invasion could fuel a broader war.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that President Donald Trump had directed U.S. troops in northern Syria to begin pulling out “as safely and quickly as possible.” He did not say Trump ordered troops to leave Syria, but that seemed like the next step in a combat zone growing more unstable by the hour.
Esper, interviewed on two TV news shows, said the administration was considering its options.