Oct 24, 2019

Turkey's Erdogan calls on U.S. to hand over top Kurdish commander

Mazloum Kobani Abdi, President Trump and President Erdogan. Photos: Delil Souleiman/AFP; Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post; Oliver Bunic/AFP via Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told state TV on Thursday that the U.S. should hand over Syrian Democratic Forces commander Mazloum Kobani Abdi, calling him a "wanted terrorist" with an Interpol red notice.

Why it matters: Abdi led the primarily Kurdish SDF in the U.S.-backed fight against ISIS, where more than 10,000 of his fighters were killed. Erdogan views the Kurds who fight with the SDF as an extension of the PKK, a terrorist organization that has sought to gain Kurdish autonomy inside Turkey for decades. On Thursday, President Trump tweeted that he had spoken with Abdi and that the Kurdish leader "appreciates what we have done," despite criticism that the U.S. exit from northern Syria cleared the way for Turkey to attack the Kurds.

  • After Trump announced Wednesday that the Turks and the Kurds had reached a "permanent ceasefire," a group of bipartisan senators led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to expedite a visa for Abdi to visit the U.S.
  • Erdogan himself is scheduled to visit the White House on Nov. 13. The Turkish president told state TV that his justice minister will file the appropriate paperwork to request the U.S. hand over Abdi.

Go deeper: Russia and Turkey capitalize on America's Syria exit

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