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The United States has slapped sanctions on Nato ally Turkey after Ankara's renewed offensive against Kurds in northern Syria put civilians at risk. Washington also accused Turkey of causing the release of dangerous Islamic State terrorists from the region.

"I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path," President Donald Trump said, in a dramatic turnaround. Trump was widely criticised at home for leaving the Kurds in northeastern Syria at the mercy of Turkey.

Turkey is opposed to the Kurdish consolidation in the north and east of Syria as it has its own sizeable Kurdish minority. Besides Turkey, countries like Syria, Iraq and Iran too have large Kurdish minorities. The problem is complex as the Kurdish minorities in all these countries are seeking varying degrees of autonomy.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wants to crush the Kurds in Syria as he sees it as a branch of the The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which represents nearly 20 percent of Kurds inside Turkey. The PKK had taken up arms against Ankara in the 1980s, triggering a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people so far

Abandoned by the US, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish militia, turned to the Syrian government for support. This also changed the course of thinking in Washington, eventually forcing Trump's hand.

"The president of the United States called on the president of Turkey to stop the invasion, to enact an immediate ceasefire and to begin negotiations with Kurdish forces in Syria," Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Reuters

"The Turkish government's actions are endangering innocent civilians, and destabilizing the region, including undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS [Islamic State]," the statement added.

Dangerous Isis extremists let loose

Last week, US Special Forces troops stationed in northern Syria were targeted with artillery fire by Turkish positions in the area. The flare-up, believed to be accidental, happened during Turkey's renewed offensive against the Syrian Kurdish positions in North Syria following a widely criticised policy shift by President Donald Trump.

And in a damaging fallout of Trump's abrupt decision to pull troops out of the Kurdish areas in Syria, as many as 60 high value Isis terror operatives escaped from detention. The escape of the dangerous terrorists, who had been held in war time prisons in northern Syria, means that five years of hard work against the Islamic State jihadists is undone, a top US official said,