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Pompeo: Erdogan threats against Kurds will not stop Syria withdrawal




The US troop withdrawal from Syria will not be scuppered despite Turkish threats against Washington’s Kurdish allies there, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, promising to ensure that the Kurds would still be protected.
Pompeo met leaders in Iraq’s capital and its semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Wednesday, aiming to reassure them about Washington’s plans following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement last month of an abrupt withdrawal from Syria.
The unannounced visits to Baghdad and the Kurdish regional capital Erbil came on the second day of a Middle East tour also taking in Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman.
Pompeo has the task of explaining US policy in the region after Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops from Syria, which rattled allies and came as a shock to top US officials. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit over it.
The US forces have been working with a Kurdish militia to fight against ISIS extremist group. The Kurds control a swath of northeastern Syria, Washington’s foothold in a conflict that has drawn in Russia, Iran, Turkey and other regional powers.
Washington has repeatedly said its Kurdish allies will remain safe despite the withdrawal. But Turkey, which considers the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia an enemy, has repeatedly vowed to crush the group and repudiated any suggestion of protecting it once US troops leave.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan denounced visiting US National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday for suggesting that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the US withdrawal, a suggestion Erdogan called “a serious mistake”.
Asked in Erbil if Erdogan’s pushback on the protection of the Kurds puts the withdrawal at risk, Pompeo told reporters: “No. We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces.”
Pompeo added: “It’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected and Erdogan has made commitments, he understands that.”

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