Trump ally describes Syria troop withdrawal as 'ethnic cleansing'

Trump ally Lindsey Graham says troop withdrawal is "ethnic cleansing," while Republican Mitch McConnell describes the order, together with Turkey's assault in Syria as a "strategic nightmare".

US troop withdrawals have coincided with a Turkish assault on Syria
US troop withdrawals have coincided with a Turkish assault on Syria

One of Donald Trump's party’s most senior politicians has criticised his policy on Syria, describing it as ‘ethnic cleansing’.

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Republican Mitch McConnell described Trump's troop withdrawal order, together with Turkey's assault in Syria as a "strategic nightmare."

McConnell is the latest Republican to criticise the president over Syria. Senator Lindsey Graham - normally a staunch ally of Mr Trump's - has vociferously opposed the administration's troop withdrawal.

"A buffer zone is acceptable to the Kurds but a military occupation that displaces hundreds of thousands is not a safe zone," Graham said on Thursday after speaking to Kurdish forces. "It is ethnic cleansing."

On Wednesday the president had called the Turkey-Syria border situation "strategically brilliant" for the US.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's operation aims to push Kurdish fighters - regarded by Turkey as terrorists - away from northernmost Syria and create a "safe zone" for resettling up to two million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.

Sporadic fighting continues in the region despite a US-brokered pause, with international news media reporting explosions on Friday – dismissed by Erdogan as “misinformation.”

The Turkish-declared pause followed talks in Ankara between Erdogan and Trump's Vice-President, Mike Pence, on Thursday.

Under the peace deal, Turkey agreed to suspend its operation for five days while Kurdish fighters left the area.

Turkish forces had attacked the area after Trump withdrew all US troops from the border.

Between 160,000 and 300,000 people have reportedly fled their homes since the fighting started.

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