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Trump and Erdogan in 2017. Photo: Brenadan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has confirmed that nearly all U.S. troops in Syria will be leaving the country while warning Turkey of repercussions for its offensive against Kurdish forces who had been key U.S. allies.

  • In a lengthy statement, Trump said the U.S. forces leaving Syria will remain in the region to guard against an ISIS resurgence. He also announced a suspension of trade talks with Turkey, a hike in steel tariffs to 50%, and potential "powerful additional sanctions" against those guilty of "serious human rights abuses."

Why it matters: Trump insists he didn't give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a "green light" last week to attack America's Kurdish allies, but his withdrawal of U.S. special forces from the Syria-Turkey border was certainly read that way by both Erdogan and by the Kurds.

  • Erdogan considers the Kurdish forces a terror threat on his border. Facing an onslaught, the Kurds quickly struck a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Russian backers, reshaping the conflict in Syria in the span of just a few days.
  • The steps by Trump and Erdogan provoked bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill, where sanctions against Turkey are currently being prepared.
  • Trump turned against Erdogan's invasion after it began, and he is now preempting those looming sanctions with steps of his own.
  • He said only a "small footprint" of U.S. forces would remain in southern Syria, while the northeast of the country would be abandoned entirely.

The big picture: “Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State,” the NYT’s David Sanger writes.

Go deeper: Behind the scenes on Trump's Syria exit

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.