WASHINGTON — Top Republicans in Congress — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — criticized President Donald Trump over his decision to remove US troops from northern Syria as Turkey plans a military offensive there.
McConnell urged Trump to reverse his move, saying “a precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime.”
“I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” said McConnell. “Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”
“As we learned the hard way during the Obama Administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal,” he added.
Other Republican allies of the President, including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Liz Cheney, the number three House Republican, objected to Trump’s decision.
“Pulling out of northern Syria ignores that painful lesson, represents an abandonment of our Kurdish allies despite their vital contributions to the fight against ISIS, emboldens Iran, and serves as an undeserved gift to the Erdogan regime, which has only continued its steady march toward Moscow,” said Cheney.
The comments from the Republicans came hours after the White House made the announcement Sunday night following a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The move marks a major shift in US foreign policy and effectively gives Turkey the green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces. The group, long considered as among Washington’s most reliable partners in Syria, has played a key strategic role in the campaign against ISIS in the region.
While most responses from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been relatively critical of Trump’s comments, a few Republicans have praised the move — including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“I stand with @realDonaldTrump today as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy,” Paul tweeted.