Targeting Turkey's economy, President Trump announced sanctions Monday aimed at restraining the Turks' assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria—an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving US troops out of the way. Meanwhile, the Americans were scrambling for Syria's exits, a move criticized at home and abroad as opening the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State fighters who were the reason US forces came in the first place. In Washington, Trump said in a statement that he was halting trade negotiations with Turkey and raising steel tariffs, the AP reports. He said he would soon sign an order permitting sanctions to be imposed on current and former Turkish officials. American troops consolidated their positions in northern Syria on Monday and prepared to evacuate equipment in advance of a full withdrawal, a US defense official said.
The hurried preparations, triggered by Trump's decision Saturday to expand a limited troop pullout into a complete withdrawal, came as Trump's national security team considered imposing what he called "big sanctions" on NATO ally Turkey. On Monday, Syrian government troops moved north toward the border region, setting up a potential clash with Turkish-led forces. Kurdish forces previously allied with the US in the fight against IS said they had reached a deal with President Bashar Assad's government to help them fend off Turkey's invasion. The US pullout raised many questions, including how and whether the Trump administration would continue putting military pressure on the Islamic State in Syria without a troop presence on the ground. Even Mitch McConnell, normally a staunch Trump supporter, said he was "gravely concerned" by events in Syria and Trump's response so far. (More of the latest here.)