WASHINGTON -- In a span of 24 hours, President Donald Trump moved from threatening to obliterate Turkey's economy if it invades Syria to inviting its president to visit the White House.
But Trump did not back away Tuesday from a plan to withdraw American troops from Syria as he tried to persuade Turkey not to invade the country and attack the U.S.-allied Kurds -- a needle-threading strategy that has angered Republican and Democratic lawmakers and confused U.S. allies.
"This is really dangerous," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
Trump tweeted that while U.S. forces "may be" leaving Syria, the U.S. has not abandoned the Kurds, who stand to be destroyed if Turkey follows through with its planned invasion. The Kurds lead a group of Syria fighters who have been steadfast and effective American allies in combating the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey, however, sees the Kurds as terrorists and a border threat.
Joseph Votel, a retired Army general who headed Central Command's military operations in Syria until last spring, wrote on The Atlantic website Tuesday that mutual trust was a key ingredient in the U.S. partnership with the Kurds.
"The sudden policy change this week breaks that trust at the most crucial juncture and leaves our partners with very limited options," Votel wrote.
Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said even a limited Turkish incursion into northern Syria could quickly escalate.
"The president is doubling down on this -- seems to be reversing course," Schanzer said. "He's trying to convey to the American people that he's made the right decision. Of course, (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan is going to see this as a green light."