Trump defends major policy shift in Syria

(SOUNDBITE) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: "I'm not siding with anybody- we've been in Syria for many years. You know Syria was supposed to be a short-term hit, just a short-term hit and we were supposed to be in and out."

U.S. President Donald Trump defended his decision to withdraw American forces from northeastern Syria, -- which critics - including members of his own party - say will effectively give Turkey the green light to launch an offensive against America's Kurdish allies...

The major policy shift was denounced as a "stab in the back" by Kurdish-led forces that have long allied with Washington in fighting Islamic State as it leaves them vulnerable to an incursion by the Turkish military which brands them terrorists.

(SOUNDBITE) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: "If you look at some of the Kurds, as you know that's a natural enemy of...of Turkey."

But speaking to reporters Monday from the White House - Trump added that if Istanbul takes a planned military strike in Syria too far-- it will be punished.

(SOUNDBITE) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING: "Right now we're at the position where if Turkey does something out of what they should be doing we will hit them so hard on the economy."

But while Trump threatens Turkey, he says he still wants Istanbul and other regional powers to 'clean up the mess' in Syria..

(SOUNDBITE) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING "Iran is an example, hates ISIS, and ISIS hates Iran. Iraq you know all about that. Turkey, Syria- let them take care of it, let them take care of it. We want to bring our troops back home. Its been many many years, its been decades in many cases. We want to bring our troops back home and I got elected on that."

Meanwhile on Monday video obtained by Syrian TV appeared to show vehicles moving in the distance as Turkish military advanced into Hasakeh in northeastern Syria on Monday evening.

But a senior Trump administration official said Turkey does not appear "as of now" to have begun its expected incursion into northern Syria.

The official, briefing reporters on a conference call, said 50 American troops in the region would be redeployed elsewhere in Syria..adding that Trump's decision to redeploy the troops does not constitute a U.S. withdrawal from Syria.