President Trump says he's "not siding with anybody" in the widening gyre of northern Syria—but it's a claim all sides have trouble believing. The president, asked Monday why his government was siding with Turkey instead of America's Kurdish allies, said he was merely sticking to his "America first" campaign promise, CBS reports. "We've been in Syria for many years. You know, Syria was supposed to be a short-term hit." The White House says US troops are pulling out of the area ahead of an expected Turkish offensive. Trump defended the move Monday, saying "Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds" will have to "figure the situation out." Kurdish leaders say the US has left the region to become a "war zone," and they will defend it "at all costs."
Trump, accused of abandoning Kurds who had joined the US in the fight against ISIS, also threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if the country did anything he felt, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," was off-limits. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Tuesday that the country would not bow to American threats, the AP reports. He said Turkey plans to combat Kurdish Syrian fighters, which it considers terrorists, and create a zone to resettle Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey. A Syrian government spokesman, meanwhile, said the country "will defend all Syrian territory" and urged Kurds to rejoin the government side. The Guardian reports that with troops massed along the border, Turkey's defense ministry announced late Monday that all preparations for a possible military operation had been completed. (Read more Turkey stories.)