US Senator Bernie Sanders has lashed out at President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria, calling him a liar for abandoning long-time Kurdish militant allies in the region.
“The difference between Trump and me is he lies. I don’t,” Sanders said in an interview with ABC on Sunday.
“You don’t turn your back on an ally that lost 11,000 troops fighting against terrorism through a tweet and a discussion with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.”
Turkish military forces and the Turkish-backed militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched on Wednesday a long-threatened offensive in Syria’s northeast against Kurdish militants from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to push them away from border areas.
The White House said the offensive was perpetrated after the US had pulled out troops from the region following a phone conversation between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Trump defended his decision on Thursday, saying, “We have no soldiers or Military anywhere near the attack area. I am trying to end the endless wars, talking to both sides.”
The US has long been providing the YPG and SDF militants with arms, calling them a key partner in the purported fight against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in Syria.
Syria’s troop pullout an ‘outrage’
In his interview with ABC on Sunday, Sanders called the US decision on Syria’s troop withdrawal an “outrage,” but billed himself as a “strong opponent of endless wars.”
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate from Vermont said dealing with Turkey and that Syrian region is “a whole other issue,” claiming that, “It sends a message to the entire world that you cannot trust the United States of America anymore, in foreign affairs. Doesn’t matter what the president says, because tomorrow he may reverse himself.”
Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been involved in armed separatism in Turkey since 1984.
Erdogan said on Friday that Ankara will not stop its military operation against Kurdish militants in northeastern Syria “no matter what anyone says.”
The Turkish Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that a total of 480 YPG militants had been “neutralized” since the operation began.
The Turkish military generally uses the term neutralize to signify that the militants surrendered or were killed or captured.
The self-proclaimed Kurdish-led authority in northeastern Syria says more than 191,000 people have been displaced as a result of the Turkish invasion.
The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, namely “Euphrates Shield” in August 2016 and “Olive Branch” in January 2018 with the declared aim of eradicating the presence of Kurdish militants and Daesh terrorists near Turkey’s borders.