Trump compliments Turkey as White House says Erdogan will visit

Alex Wayne

Donald Trump complimented Turkey a day after clearing the way for the NATO ally to invade Syria, calling the country a “big trading partner” as the White House said its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, plans to visit the U.S. in November.

The U.S. president’s posture toward the NATO ally puts him further at odds with many Republicans, who have expressed alarm at Turkey’s plans for a Syria incursion and more generally at Erdogan’s increasingly illiberal behavior. Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, appended a tweet critical of Turkey with the hashtag #TurkeyIsNotOurFriend.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony to inaugurate a Turkey-financed highway linking Belgrade with Bosnia's capital of Sarajevo in Sremska Raca, some 80 kilometers (49 miles) west of Belgrade, Serbia, during his two-day official visit, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019.

Trump said in a tweet that Erdogan will visit Washington on Nov. 13. He also said Turkey makes the steel frame for the U.S.’s F-35 fighter, without mentioning that the Pentagon suspended Turkey from participating in the multinational project after Erdogan purchased an anti-aircraft missile system from Russia over Washington’s objections.

Turkey’s currency, the lira, erased earlier losses and gained as much as 0.8% to a session high of 5.7837 per dollar following Trump’s tweets.

The White House on Sunday said American troops “would no longer be in the immediate area” if Turkey moves into Syria, sparking outrage from GOP lawmakers who are normally allies of Trump.

But on Monday, administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity sought to minimize the impression created by the commander-in-chief: The U.S. still urges Erdogan not to invade Syria or to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces that the Syrian leader considers terrorists, they said.

Only a few dozen U.S. troops were being pulled back, they said. The Defense Department added that Turkish aircraft have been removed from daily air operations by the U.S. and allies above southern Turkey and northern Syria.

Trump seemed to adjust his message as well, saying Turkey would be held responsible for reining in Islamic State terrorists – and that he’d “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it did anything he considers “off limits.”

With assistance from Nick Wadhams and Jordan Fabian.