The meeting’s announcement was met with a strong, bipartisan rebuke on Capitol Hill, with many members calling the White House invitation poorly timed in light of Turkey’s military advance into northeast Syria.
“President Erdogan needs to hear an unequivocal message of opposition to his incursion,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat. She called on the White House to revoke the invitation “until Turkey pulls back from its current course.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican, said Mr. Erdogan should “absolutely not” come to the White House, while Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said the Turkish leader “should not visit the White House until his forces stand down.”
U.S. policy in the region remains murky, as the original full withdrawal Mr. Trump outlined has been repeatedly modified in the face of criticism and recent events on the ground in Syria.
Mr. Trump now says that a small number of U.S. troops will remain near the Turkish-Syrian border to protect Syrian oil fields from a resurgent Islamic State, though he characterized the cease-fire deal with Turkey brokered by Vice President Mike Pence last month as a “major breakthrough” that honored his pledge to end American involvement in lengthy foreign wars.
Despite the cease-fire deal that lifted some U.S. sanctions on Ankara, and an agreement between Turkey and Russia to jointly patrol areas along the Turkish-Syria border, clashes continued between Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkish military over the weekend as Turkish forces continued to expand a buffer zone in border land once controlled by the Kurds.
Turkey has blamed the Kurds for the release of ISIS members and families from detention camps as fears mount that thousands of detained ISIS fighters in Syria are planning an escape amid the violence and disorder.
Turkey’s interior minister said Monday that the country will send the released ISIS members back to their home countries if accommodations are not made to hold them permanently.
Approximately 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, according to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured during Turkey’s latest offensive in Syria.