US President Donald Trump continued to defend his reversal of US policy as part of a plan to extricate the United States from “endless” wars in the Middle East.

Trump said he wants to “bring our soldiers back home” and let others maintain “peace and safety” as Turkey pressed ahead with its offensive in northern Syria despite US sanctions and growing calls for it to stop.

Syria’s Russia-backed army moved toward the key city of Manbij that was abandoned by US forces.

President Donald Trump’s unexpected decision to withhold protection from Syria’s Kurds after a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a week ago swiftly upended five years of US policy on Syria.

The United States announced on Sunday it was withdrawing its entire force of 1 000 troops from northern Syria. Its former Kurdish allies immediately forged a new alliance with Assad’s government, inviting the army into towns across the breadth of their territory.

Trump announced a set of sanctions on Monday to punish Ankara.

US Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in Ankara, where he will urge Turkey to reach an immediate ceasefire in Syria and to work towards a negotiated settlement.