Trump defends U.S. relations with Turkey after bipartisan backlash

U.S. President Donald Trump responds to questions about the U.S. House impeachment investigation during a formal signing ceremony for the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement at the White House in Washington, October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to defend Washington’s relationship with Turkey after a bipartisan backlash over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.

Critics fear the move will open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied with Washington who have led the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria. Turkey says those forces are terrorists because of their ties to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.

“So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States,” Trump wrote in posts on Twitter, adding, “They have also been good to deal with ... Also remember, and importantly, that Turkey is an important member in good standing of NATO.”

He also insisted Washington was not abandoning the Kurdish-led forces, writing on Twitter: “We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters.”

The Kurdish-led forces have said they may launch talks with Damascus or Moscow to fill a security vacuum in the event of a full U.S. withdrawal from the area.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said late on Monday that it had completed preparations for a possible military operation in northeastern Syria.

Reporting by Makini Brice and Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Liffey