The Latest: Trump claims deliberate release of IS prisoners

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Italian President Sergio Mattarella during a news conference at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., takes questions from reporters at the Capitol in Washington. Congressional Republicans have spent most of the past two years studiously avoiding any public fights with President Donald Trump, either out of party loyalty or fear of being on the wrong end of a presidential tweetstorm. That public show of unity ended emphatically when Trump announced he would be withdrawing U.S. forces from northern Syria in advance of an impending Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurdish militia fighters. Graham, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas all joined Democratic colleagues in publicly criticizing the idea, with Graham even going on Fox News to label the decision “short-sighted and irresponsible.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — The Latest on President Donald Trump and Syria (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump says members of the Islamic State group who were being held in prisons by Kurdish fighters in Syria have been deliberately released in an effort to make him look bad.

But senior U.S. officials are casting doubt on those claims. Those officials say some Syrian Kurdish forces have moved north to fight Turkish troops who launched an attack across the border against the Kurds. The U.S. officials say other Kurds have stayed to guard the detention centers that hold thousands of IS militants.

The officials say the U.S. doesn't have good on-the-ground information about what's going on in some of the detention centers as American forces pull back from the border region. The officials say they believe only a small number of detainees have escaped.

These officials aren't authorized to public discuss ongoing operations in Syria and are speaking on condition of anonymity.

—Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor.

___

1:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says things are "very nicely under control" in northern Syria where Turkish forces are fighting Syrian Kurds who were aligned with the U.S. against the Islamic State group.

Trump tells reporters at the White House that Syrian Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists are more dangerous than IS.

Turkey believes the Syrian Kurds who fought alongside the U.S. are linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, which it considers terrorists.

Trump is defending his decision to pull U.S. forces out of the Syrian border region where brutal fighting continues.

At a news conference with Trump, Italy's president says Italy is deeply concerned about the Turkish offensive in Syria and says it will "offer new space" to IS.

___

12:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, essentially abandoning the Syria Kurd fighters who fought alongside U.S. against the Islamic State group, is drawing criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's closest allies, says Trump's decision will allow IS to remerge. The South Carolina Republican says Trump will "be held accountable."

Graham says Trump's decision "is against all sound military advice." Graham says he hopes Trump "will reconsider, stop the bloodshed and reset the table before it's too late."

Graham says that if Trump continues along those lines, "then our foreign policy is in a very bad spot in the Middle East and to those who think the Mideast doesn't matter to America, remember 9/11 we had that same attitude on 9/10 2001."

Another Republican senator, Florida's Marco Rubio, tells reporters that he doesn't know what can be done to undo the harm that's resulted from the withdrawal. Rubio says "there are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are some that are irreversible."

___

10:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says U.S. troops are "largely out" of a region of Syria where Turkish forces are attacking Kurdish fighters.

Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. after Trump pulled troops from the region this month. As he met Wednesday with Italy's president, Trump said: "If Syria wants to fight to take back their land, that's up to them and Turkey."

Trump adds: "There's a lot of sand that they can play with."

But as Trump defends removing troops from northeastern Syria, he's talking up his recent decision to send more troops to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom defend against Iran.

Trump says the U.S. is sending missiles and "great power" to the Saudis, and adds: "They're paying for that."

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