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Oct 9, 2019  
Trump on potential ISIS escapees: "They will be escaping to Europe"
President Trump responded on Wednesday to bipartisan condemnation of his decision to move U.S. troops out of northern Syria, telling reporters that Turkey and the Kurds have "hated each other for hundreds of years," and that if the ISIS prisoners that are currently being held by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces escape, "they will be escaping to Europe."

REPORTER: "What if ISIS fighters escape and pose a threat elsewhere?"TRUMP: "Well they are going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes. But Europe didn't want them for months. They could have had trials, they could have done whatever they wanted, but as usual, it's not reciprocal. ... When President Obama took the PKK, that's a tough deal because that's been a mortal enemy of Turkey. And so when you bring them into a partnership, it's a tough situation. ... They've hated each other for many, many years."
Context: After Trump's sudden announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from northern Syria, Turkey launched a military offensive in a campaign to "neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes."

  • The U.S. partnered with the Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015 in the fight against ISIS, but Turkey considers the primarily-Kurdish militia to be a terrorist organization.
  • The SDF bore the brunt of casualties during the war against the Islamic State, with more than 10,000 killed as the U.S. largely avoided a presence on the ground.
  • The SDF is also currently holding about 11,000 ISIS detainees. A Turkish incursion — which the SDF has claimed would result in "all-out war" — is likely to pull their forces away from prison camps and the ongoing campaign against ISIS.
Trump has accused European nations of refusing to take back the prisoners who traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.

  • He told reporters Wednesday that he disagrees with Republican allies who have urged him to maintain a U.S. presence in Syria, but said that he supports Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) idea to sanction Turkey if their operation is not conducted in "as humane a way as possible."
  • Asked if he is worried that the Syria decision will damage the U.S.' ability to forge future alliances, Trump said "no," adding: "Alliances are easy."

Go deeper
Where it stands: Turkey's offensive into Syria
Turkish forces gather in Syria's al-Bab town on Oct. 11. Photo: Zein Al Rifai via Getty Images

Kurdish fighters in northern Syria said they prevented a second jailbreak attempt on Friday at a detention camp for ISIS family members, the New York Times reports, just 3 days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a military offensive in the region.

The latest: The Turkish military captured the center of the Syrian town Ras al-Ayn on Saturday — its "most significant gain" since the start of the offensive, AP reports. 28 Syrian civilians have been killed as of Saturday, per counts from a war monitor cited by AFP and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.N. estimates 100,000 Syrian residents have evacuated to the south.

Go deeperArrow Updated Oct 12, 2019  
 
Trump on Syria's Kurds: "They're not angels"
President Trump addressed Turkey's invasion of Syria in the Oval Office on Wednesday, telling reporters that the Syrian Kurds — who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS — are "not angels," and that the Syrian government and Russia will protect them.

Go deeperArrow Oct 16, 2019  
 
Civilians flee as Turkey advances against Kurds and into Syria
https://graphics.axios.com/2019-10-07-syria-map/2019-10-07-syria-map.html
The Turkish offensive in Northern Syria that began on Wednesday after President Trump withdrew U.S. special forces from the border has claimed its first casualties and sent an estimated 60,000 civilians fleeing for safety.

The big picture: Turkey’s air and ground campaign is targeting Kurdish fighters who are central to the U.S. campaign to defeat the Islamic State, or ISIS, but viewed by NATO ally Turkey as elements of a terror group, the PKK.

Go deeperArrow Oct 10, 2019  
 
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