by Vivian Salama, David Gauthier-Villars, Dion Nissenbaum | The Wall Street Journal
Turkey dismissed a U.S. call for an immediate cease-fire in northeast Syria, pressing ahead with its military offensive as senior Trump administration officials rushed to Ankara to try to halt fighting triggered by the withdrawal of American troops from the region.
President Trump on Wednesday attempted to distance himself from the escalating chaos in northern Syria following his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region and lashed out at lawmakers critical of the decision, including during an extraordinary White House meeting that ended in acrimony.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Sky News Wednesday that he will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading a delegation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Turkey to discuss a ceasefire in northern Syria.
Turkey continued its military assault into northern Syria on Thursday. Aid agencies warn that nearly half a million people near the border are at risk from the violence, which is drawing criticism from many U.S. officials.
President Trump faced a swift torrent of Republican criticism Monday as lawmakers rebuked his plan to withdraw troops from northeast Syria, a move Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said would undermine U.S. national security and potentially bolster Islamic State terrorists.
In a major shift in United States military policy in Syria, the White House said on Sunday that President Trump had given his endorsement for a Turkish military operation that would sweep away American-backed Kurdish forces near the border in Syria.
President Trump said the Islamic State extremist group would suffer its final territorial defeat by Wednesday evening, even as U.S.-backed fighters in Syria were still completing the battle against the militants.
The U.S. military is crafting plans to keep nearly 1,000 forces in Syria, U.S. officials said, a shift that comes three months after President Trump ordered a complete withdrawal and is far more than the White House originally intended.