President Donald Trump said Wednesday that US troops are "largely out" of a region of Syria where Turkish forces are attacking the Kurdish fighters who were America's allies in fighting the Islamic State group.
"It's not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like you to believe," Trump said, adding that he's more than willing to let adversaries fight it out in that area of the Middle East.
"They've got a lot of sand over there," he said. "So there's a lot of sand that they can play with."
As for the Kurds, whom Trump has been criticised for abandoning, he said, "Syria's friendly with the Kurds. The Kurds are very well protected. Plus, they know how to fight. And, by the way, they're no angels."
In the meantime, he said, "Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be."
He answered reporters' questions as he met at the White House with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters allied with the United States after Trump pulled troops from the region earlier this month. His decision was strongly condemned in the US — including by usual Republican allies in Congress — and around the world as contributing to regional instability and the abandonment of an ally.
He noted that Syria was getting "some help with Russia and that's fine."
"If Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that's really up to them," he said. "It's not our border. We shouldn't be losing lives over it."
Trump imposed new sanctions on Turkey this week in an attempt to force President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end his assault. Trump is also sending a delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence to Turkey to meet with Erdogan in an attempt to help negotiate a cease-fire.
Trump said the US shouldn't be involved in "endless wars" in the Middle East and "it's time for us to come home."
The president said that if Syria wants to fight over land that doesn't belong to the U.S., "that's up to them and Turkey."
Even as Trump defended his removal of US troops from northeastern Syria, he praised his decision to send more troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom defend against Iran.
Trump said the US is sending missiles and "great power" to the Saudis, and "they're paying for that."
Meanwhile, the controversial decision is drawing criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's closest allies, says Trump's decision will allow Isis to remerge. The South Carolina Republican says Trump will "be held accountable."
Graham says Trump's decision "is against all sound military advice." Graham says he hopes Trump "will reconsider, stop the bloodshed and reset the table before it's too late."
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Graham says that if Trump continues along those lines, "then our foreign policy is in a very bad spot in the Middle East and to those who think the Mideast doesn't matter to America, remember 9/11 we had that same attitude on 9/10 2001."
Another Republican senator, Florida's Marco Rubio, tells reporters that he doesn't know what can be done to undo the harm that's resulted from the withdrawal. Rubio says "there are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are some that are irreversible."
In another blow to Trump, the House overwhelmingly voted its bipartisan condemnation of the withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria.
Despite stark divisions over Democrats' Trump impeachment inquiry, Democrats and Republicans banded together Wednesday and approved a nonbinding resolution by 354-60 vote.
The resolution states Congress' opposition to the troop pullback and says Turkey should cease its military action in Syria. And the measure says the White House should present a plan for an "enduring defeat" of the Islamic State group.
Many worry that Isis may revive itself as Turkish forces attack Syrian Kurds holding the extremists.
The House debate was extraordinary for the intensity of lawmakers' opinions.
Republicans called the troop withdrawal "disastrous" and a "catastrophe." Democrats criticised Trump directly, with Rep. Seth Moulton saying Trump "has taken the side of dictators and butchers."