ADDS GRAHAM STATEMENT, TURKEY BACKGROUND
By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday reiterated his administration's commitment to withdraw troops from Syria following a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart a day earlier.
"The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight," Trump tweeted.
Trump said ISIS, or Daesh, was "rampant" in northern Syria when he took office but his administration "quickly defeated 100%" of the terror group by thousands of fighters, "mostly from Europe."
He slammed Europe for not wanting them back and lashed out at Europe.
"NO, we did you a great favor and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials. They again said 'NO,' thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the 'sucker,' on NATO, on Trade, on everything," Trump said.
Trump reiterated that he is pulling U.S. troops from conflict zones where there are no national interests.
"WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their 'neighborhood'," Trump said.
The U.S. president then said the Kurds, referring to YPG terror group in Syria, "were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to" fight with the U.S., in an apparent criticism of the policies of former U.S. administrations.
"They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home," Trump added.
In a statement late Sunday, the White House said Turkey will soon carry out its "long-planned operation" into northern Syria.
"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS [Daesh] territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," said the statement.
It came hours after a telephone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump, during which a November meeting was planned, according to Turkish presidential sources.
The Turkish president said Monday an operation against YPG terror group is imminent before his departure to Serbia.
****Trump's announcement was met with fierce pushback on Capitol Hill, including by some lawmakers closest to the president.
****Senator Lindsey Graham took to Fox News early Monday to voice his criticism, saying a U.S. withdrawal from northeast Syria and ensuing conflict would "lead to ISIS' re-emergence."
****"This is a big win for Iran and Assad. A big win for ISIS," he said. "I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey if they step one foot into northeastern Syria."
****Graham, who has recently spoken of the "legitimate national security threat to Turkey" posed by the YPG, was one of the chief voices counseling Trump against pulling out of Syria after he announced his intent to do so in December.
*****Graham's remarks ran contrary to the facts on the ground as well. YPG/PKK-controlled and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are not the only group fighting against Daesh.
****Turkey has long called for the U.S. to partner with it in the fight against Daesh, a terror group Ankara has worked to root out, arresting and deporting its members within Turkey.
****Since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for nearly 400,000 Syrians who fled the violence to return home to Western Syria.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. YPG is the Syrian branch of the terrorist organization PKK.
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington.