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Trump says Turkey and Kurds needed to fight 'like two kids'

More than 500 people have been killed including dozens of civilians, mostly on the Kurdish side.

Trump  during a campaign rally yesterday  at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Trump during a campaign rally yesterday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Image: Jeffrey McWhorter/AP/Press Association Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump said Thursday that he allowed Turkish and Kurdish forces to clash in deadly battle because the two sides were like children who needed to fight each other.

“It was unconventional what I did. I said they’re going to have to fight a little while,” Trump told a rally of supporters in Texas.

“Like two kids in a lot, you have got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.

“They fought for a few days and it was pretty vicious.”

Trump triggered the week-long Turkish offensive against the Kurds by withdrawing US troops from northeast Syria.

More than 500 people have been killed including dozens of civilians, mostly on the Kurdish side, and 300,000 civilians have been displaced within Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

Trump stressed that “not one drop of American blood” was shed.

On Thursday, Turkey – after talks with US Vice President Mike Pence – agreed to suspend its offensive and to end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from a safe zone along the border.

“We went there and we said we want a pause, and the Kurds have been terrific. They’re going to move back a little bit,” Trump said.

We are going to keep ISIS (the Islamic State group) nice and locked up. We are going to find more of them, and Turkey is all set.

Trump has faced accusations even from usually loyal supporters that his withdrawal of 1,000 US troops betrayed Kurdish militants who bore the brunt of the fight against Islamic State in recent years.

Brett McGurk, former presidential special envoy for the anti-IS coalition, described Trump’s remarks about “two kids” fighting as “obscene and ignorant.”

“200k innocent people displaced. Hundreds dead. Credible reports of war crimes. ISIS prisoners escaping. US evacuating and bombing its own positions or handing them to Russia. Two kids in a lot?” he said on Twitter.

‘Pause’ in fighting  

The ceasefire requires the Kurds to vacate the area in an arrangement that largely solidifies Turkey’s position and aims in the week-long conflict.

The deal includes a conditional halt to American economic sanctions.

After negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, US vice president Mike Pence hailed the five-day ceasefire as the way to end the bloodshed caused by Turkey’s invasion of Syria.

He remained silent on whether it amounted to a second abandonment of America’s former Kurdish allies in the fight against the so-called Islamic State group.

It was not clear whether the deal announced by Pence means the US military will play a role in enabling or enforcing the ceasefire. Pence said the US would “facilitate” the Kurds’ pullout, but he did not say if that would include the use of American troops.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

In contrast with Pence’s description of a limited safe zone, the agreement would effectively create a zone of control patrolled by the Turkish military that Ankara wants to stretch for the entire border from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, though the agreement did not define the extent of the zone. Turkish forces currently control about a quarter of that length, captured in the past nine days.

The rest is held by the Kurdish-led forces or by the Syrian government military, backed by Russia, which the Kurds invited to move in to shield them from the Turks. None of those parties has much reason to let Turkish forces into the areas.

Ankara has long argued the Kurdish fighters are nothing more than an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has waged a guerrilla campaign inside Turkey since the 1980s and which Turkey, as well as the US and European Union, designate as a terrorist organisation.

In fact, Turkey’s foreign minister rejected the word “ceasefire”, saying that would be possible only with a legitimate second party. He suggested a “pause” in fighting instead.

- Additional reporting from PA

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