by Jordain Carney · October 7, 2019
Several Republican lawmakers on Monday panned President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish invasion, marking the latest break within the party over foreign policy.
The White House announced late Sunday that Ankara was moving forward with a long-threatened offensive in northeastern Syria and that U.S. troops would not be in the “immediate area” when it happens.
But Republicans are warning that the decision will bolster U.S. adversaries, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and put the lives of Kurdish allies in the region at risk.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted the administration during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends,” and in a tweet thread, calling it a “disaster in the making” and “short sighted.”
“I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary Pompeo. If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making,” Graham tweeted.
Graham has emerged as a vocal ally of Trump’s, but the two men have different foreign policy views. Trump ran in 2016 pledging to pull back U.S. involvement in the Middle East, while Graham is viewed as a long time defense hawk.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who serves with Graham on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that pulling back troops in northern Syria would be a “grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”
“It would confirm #Iran’s view of this administration & embolden then to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war,” Rubio added.
The two GOP senators were joined by several of their House colleagues, as well as former administration officials.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a member of House leadership who is weighing a Senate bid, called Trump’s decision a “catastrophic mistake that puts our gains against ISIS at risk and threatens US security.”
“This decision ignores lesson of 9/11. Terrorists thousands of miles away can and will use their safe-havens to launch attacks against America,” she added in a tweet.
Rep. Adam Kizinger (R-Ill.) said withdrawing U.S. troops from the area would “abandon our friends and give Russia & Iran exactly what they want. This is wrong.”
And Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who sits on both the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees, also voiced his disapproval. “Strongly disagree with @POTUS Trump decision to allow Erdogan to invade Syria. Betrays Kurds, strengthens ISIS and endangers American homeland,” King tweeted.
Meanwhile, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the Kurds “instrumental” against ISIS and said “leaving them to die is a big mistake.”
Foreign policy has been a rolling point of contention between Trump and GOP allies on Capitol Hill.
Republicans forced through new Russia sanctions in 2017 despite reported opposition from the White House, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered an amendment earlier this year warning the administration against withdrawing troops for Syria or Afghanistan.
But Trump doubled down on Monday morning saying it was time to end U.S. involvement in “ridiculous endless wars.”
“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted.
“WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” the president added.
Around 1,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in northeastern Syria, where they work closely with the Kurdish YPG, which leads the Syrian Democratic Forces in the region. The Kurds have proven to be among Washington’s most effective allies in the fight against ISIS.
Trump’s decision was widely viewed as an endorsement of Turkey’s planned military operation. Turkey, which views the Kurdish forces a terrorist insurgency, has long been frustrated with the U.S. alliance with the group.
With Congress in the middle of a two-week recess, it’s unclear what if anything Republicans will be able to do to persuade Trump to change his mind, aside from waging a public and private pressure campaign.
The U.S. began pulling back troops from the Turkish-Syrian border early Monday, according to multiple reports.
Graham warned in a tweet that if Trump followed through with the plan to pull back U.S. troops that he would introduce a resolution to try to formally oppose him. A spokesman for Graham wasn’t immediately able to share details of the resolution, but noted that it was being drafted.
“If this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support,” he wrote.
Graham added during his Fox News interview that he would also try to slap new sanctions on Turkey is they move troops into Syria.
“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted & irresponsible this decision is in my view,” he said. “This to me is just unnerving to its core.”
Graham added that he would “do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria.”
The Hill · by Jordain Carney · October 7, 2019