On Sunday night, after a phone call between President Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House announced that the small number of U.S. forces in northern Syria would be withdrawn ahead of a Turkish invasion of the area, which is currently controlled by America’s Kurdish allies. The White House press secretary also said that “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.”
Less than two weeks ago, at a September 26 press conference, Trump said that America would “not forget” our Kurdish allies who had died fighting ISIS. “Tens of thousands of Kurds died fighting ISIS. They died for us and with us and for themselves,” President Trump said. “They’re great people and we have not forgotten.”
Trump: “Kurds are great people, great fighters, I like them a lot. We are trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget that’s their territory.They fought with us, they died with us, we lost tens of thousands of Kurds fighting ISIS. They’re great people and we have not forgotten.” pic.twitter.com/jNcP0a30Ot
— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) September 27, 2018
Many congressional Republicans condemned President Trump’s decision as a betrayal of our Kurdish allies that could allow ISIS to come roaring back.
“It would also be DISGRACEFUL if we sat idly by while Turkey slaughters the Kurds, as public reports suggest that Turkish leader Erdogan explicitly told President Trump he intends to do. Kurds risked their lives—for many years—to fight alongside us,” Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Our enemies and rivals (Iran, Russia, etc.) don’t abandon their allies; if we want allies to stand with America in the future, we shouldn’t either. Honorable nations stand by their friends.”
“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it would be Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq,” South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox & Friends on Monday morning. “The biggest lie being told by the administration is ISIS is defeated…. This is going to lead to ISIS’ reemergence. Nothing better for ISIS than to create a conflict between the Kurds and Turkey.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell issued the following statement:
“In January, a supermajority of the U.S. Senate voted for an amendment that expressed bipartisan concern about the continuing threat posed by ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, appreciation of the long-term American security interests in Syria and the region, and support for a continued military presence in northeastern Syria.
“The conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today. While the physical caliphate has been removed, ISIS and al Qaeda remain dangerous forces in Syria and the ongoing Syrian civil war poses significant security and humanitarian risks.
“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.
“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. 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.”
“If the President sticks with this retreat, he needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children. I hope the President will listen to his generals and reconsider,” Nebraska senator Ben Sasse said in a statement.
“The Kurds have been a critical and reliable partner to the US, and have played an integral role in the fight against ISIS. We cannot abandon them now,” Iowa senator Joni Ernst wrote on Twitter.
“The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster,” Utah senator Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter.
While most congressional Republicans who spoke out on Monday opposed President Trump’s new policy in Syria, the policy was supported by Kentucky senator Rand Paul and Utah senator Mike Lee. “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 wrote on Twitter.
“Congress has never declared war or authorized the use of military force in Syria. While I remain concerned with Turkey’s behavior and the threat they pose to the Kurds, I support President Trump’s decision to draw down U.S. armed forces from Syria,” Lee said in a statement. “Our founding fathers established a system of separated powers between three branches and gave Congress the power to declare war. Returning to this constitutional system and restoring Congress’s Article One powers would mitigate much of this confusion. Members of Congress have already begun discussing steps the U.S. can take to support the Kurds and deter Turkey. I look forward to engaging in those conversations.”