In an interview that aired Wednesday on "PBS NewsHour," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northern Syria ahead of a Turkish attack. Pompeo told Judy Woodruff that "the Turks have a legitimate security concern" in Northern Syria.
"They have a terrorist threat to their south. We’ve been working to make sure that we did what we could do to prevent that terror threat from striking the people in Turkey, while trying to achieve what is in America’s best interest: the threat from radical Islamic terrorism emanating from Syria," he said.
"Does the U.S. take responsibility for whatever the outcome is [in northern Syria], because the U.S. has given Turkey a green light?" Woodruff asked.
"Yeah, well that's just false," Pompeo said. "The United States didn't give Turkey a green light."
Woodruff added: "President Trump spoke with President Erdogan and after the call, Trump said that Turkey would be moving in. U.S. forces were withdrawn from the area, so there was a change in U.S. policy. You had supported staying close to the Kurdish Syrian U.S. allies that had helped in the fight against ISIS?"
"Remember the mission, Judy," Pompeo said. "When we came into office ther were people being beheaded. People being burned, people in cages. President Trump made the decision that we would begin a campaign that would take down the Caliphate. We have succeeded in that."
"On the phone call on Sunday night, it became very clear that there were American soldiers that were going to be at risk and the president made a decision to put them in a place where they were out of harm's way. That's what we have done," he explained. "President Trump has been unambiguous about making sure that radical Islamic terrorism, wherever we find it, this administration will take it seriously. And I think the success that we have had in Syria, along with many allies of the Defeat-ISIS coalition that the State Department put together numbers countries in the dozens and dozens."
"I'm confident that we will continue to protect the American people from that terrorist threat."
Watch the full interview: