President Trump “is fully prepared” to use military force should it be “needed,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday when asked about Turkey’s invasion of Syria.
CNBC’s Wilfred Frost in an interview with Pompeo addressed the recent U.S.-brokered cease-fire in Syria that Ankara had agreed to last week. The journalist asked Pompeo what might warrant a military response.
“Where we see American interests at stake or fundamental norms around the world that need to be enforced, we’ll use all the powers that we have,” Pompeo told Frost on “Closing Bell.”
“We prefer peace to war. But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action,” he added.
It wasn’t clear that Pompeo was referring specifically to Turkey. Trump has faced widespread condemnation following his decision earlier this month to pull U.S. troops from northeast Syria, essentially giving Turkey the green light to launch an invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters and civilians. The U.S. has counted on the Kurds as a vital partner in the fight against ISIS, though Turkey sees them as part of a terrorist arm known as the PKK.
“We never agreed to protect the Kurds,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. “We supported them for 3 ½, four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”
He also said he doesn’t believe it will be necessary to leave U.S. troops in Syria except to secure oil fields.
Pompeo would not say what would warrant a military response from the U.S. but noted that “we’ve done it before,” a reference to when the Trump administration struck Syria government facilities in 2017 and 2018 after Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against civilians.
“We did it, and the world should know that we will continue to do that,” Pompeo said before adding that the administration would prefer to use economic or diplomatic means/
He added that did not want to “get out in front of the president’s decision about whether to take the awesome undertaking of using America’s military might.”