World leaders were “preparing for the worst” Monday as Turkey moved quickly toward a sweeping military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria after President Trump’s surprise announcement that he would pull American forces out of a crucial buffer zone along the border between the two nations. Fighters with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a key U.S. ally in the years-long fight against the Islamic State, said they were girding for a showdown with the powerful Turkish military while accusing Mr. Trump of inflicting a “stab in the back” that could radically change the power dynamic in Syria and across the broader Middle East. Although White House officials downplayed the move and stressed that as few as 50 U.S. special operations forces were being withdrawn, Mr. Trump’s decision sparked a withering backlash on Capitol Hill and even among some of the president’s former Cabinet members. Nikki Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations, said the new U.S. policy toward the Kurds amounted to “leaving them to die” in northern Syria.
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