WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is continuing to defend his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, effectively clearing the way for a Turkish attack on American-allied Kurdish forces. On Wednesday, he said Turkey's invasion of Syria is "not our problem."
Trump has called for a ceasefire in the region and announced sanctions on Turkey; meanwhile, critics from all sides of the political aisle are condemning Trump and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Here are a few key actions coming out of Washington on the Turkey-Syria conflict:
Trump says the Kurds are 'not angels' after calling for a ceasefire
The president has forcefully pushed back on critics' concerns that his decision has left Kurdish forces vulnerable to attack and left open the potential for a resurgence of the Islamic State in the region.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters of the Kurds, "They're not angels. Go back and take a look." He has previously complained that Kurdish forces did not fight alongside the U.S. in World War II.
Syria invasion 'not our problem': Trump comments on decision to withdraw troops
Trump announced an executive order authorizing sanctions on Turkey Monday, including increased tariffs on steel and a halt to negotiations on a trade deal. Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters Monday evening the U.S. sanctioned three Turkish ministers as well as Ankara's department of defense and ministry of energy.
Statement from President Donald J. Trump Regarding Turkey’s Actions in Northeast Syria pic.twitter.com/ZCQC7nzmME— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019
The Trump administration demanded an immediate ceasefire and halt to the Turkish assault on Kurds.
What we know: The latest on Turkey's offensive in Syria
Pence and Pompeo set to visit Turkey for ceasefire negotiations
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to travel to Turkey later on Wednesday to try and negotiate a deal for a ceasefire.
A senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday said that Pence his delegation would use the threat of additional sanctions as leverage in the coming talks with Erdogan's government.
Erdogan initially indicated resistance against talks on a ceasefire with U.S. officials but has since then been willing to participate in a meeting.
"We have every expectation that we will meet with President Erdogan," Pompeo said Wednesday in an interview with Fox News. "We need them to stand down, we need a cease fire, at which point we can begin to put this all back together again."
Vote coming on bipartisan effort to condemn Trump
Also on Wednesday, the House is set to vote on a bipartisan resolution to condemn Trump's decision on Turkey.
His decision has prompted even some of his closest Republican allies to take a stand against him. Sen. Lindsey Graham has been one of the most outspoken Republicans on the Turkey decision.
The statements by President Trump about Turkey’s invasion being of no concern to us also completely undercut Vice President Pence and Sec. Pompeo’s ability to end the conflict.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 16, 2019
“What the president said today is just outrageously dangerous,” Graham said on Wednesday after Trump's comments. “It undercuts Pence and Pompeo. And I don’t agree with his construct that Turkey’s invasion of Syria is of no concern.”
The resolution, which is supported by Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, calls for Turkey to end its invasion in Syria and assault on the Kurds, voices opposition to end "United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces" and urges the United States to protect the Kurds.
"The chaos and insecurity unleashed in Syria by President Trump’s disastrous decision to precipitously withdraw from northern Syria require strong, smart leadership from Congress," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Lindsey Graham to introduce sanctions
On Thursday, Graham is also expected to introduce legislation that will impose further sanctions on Turkey in response to its invasion.
"I will be introducing sanctions against Turkey Thursday," he told reporters this week. "And I do appreciate what the administration has done against Turkey through executive action."
"If Turkey moves into northern Syria, sanctions from hell – by Congress – will follow," Graham also tweeted last week. Wide, deep, and devastating sanctions."
Graham has predicted he would be able to secure a veto-proof majority of as many as 90 votes. "Who the hell supports Erdogan over the Kurds?" he asked last week.
Democrats have also indicated support for further sanction measures.
"The president gave the green light to Turkey to go in and commit this humanitarian disaster unto the Kurds, making us an untrustworthy ally," Pelosi told reporters Tuesday. "And then had a wet noodle for his sanctions, which just were not up to the task."
Though Graham has said he supports Trump's declared sanctions on Turkey, the South Carolina senator continues to criticize Trump's rhetoric on the conflict.
"Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years," Trump said on Wednesday when asked about Graham's criticism.
Erdogan says Turkey won't negotiate with Kurds
Turkey's president rejected Trump's call for a ceasefire and a halt to the military invasion in Syria. Erdogan said he will not negotiate with Kurdish forces, whom Turkey considers a threat.
"They say 'declare a ceasefire.' We will never declare a ceasefire," Erdogan told reporters on a flight back from Baku late on Tuesday where he attended a regional business summit in Azerbaijan's capital.
'We will never declare a ceasefire': Turkey's leader rebuffs US call for Syria ceasefire, says he'll meet Pence, not just Trump
Erdogan seems unphased by U.S. sanctions so far. He said the invasion would not end until Turkey is fully able to establish a "safe zone" between Turkey and Syria, which would allow the country to settle millions of Syrian refugees and act as a buffer between Syria's Kurds and Turkey.
"They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions," Erdogan said Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Turkey-Syria: Trump defends decision as calls for ceasefire get louder