Trump Faces Backlash on Decision to Withdraw from Northern Syria
Carla Babb at the Pentagon, Nike Ching at the State Department, National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin and Extremism Watch reporter Sirwan Kajjo contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON / WHITE HOUSE – Key lawmakers of both U.S. major political parties, blindsided by Donald Trump’s announcement to pull American troops from northern Syria, are strongly condemning the president’s decision.Lindsay Graham, a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted on Monday that he had spoken with colleague Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and they will “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Just spoke to Sen FILE – Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaks to reporters after a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019.Graham, usually a staunch defender of the president, also terms the move a “disaster in the making. He added U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria “Ensures ISIS comeback. Forces Kurds to align with Assad and Iran. Destroys Turkey’s relationship with U.S. Congress. Will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.”Fellow Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Foreign Relations Committee member, agrees it is “a grave mistake.”“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 tweeted.It would confirm Turkish forces artillery pieces are seen on their new positions near the border with Syria in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria said American troops began withdrawing Monday from their positions, Oct. 6, 2019.”As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” Trump tweeted. As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks to reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon, Aug. 28, 2019.A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of not being named, tells VOA that Defense Secretary Mike Esper was in contact over the weekend with the national security team (including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and the president) to discuss the situation in northern Syria.”The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey – as did the President – that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” said Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman. “The U.S. Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation. “Trump contends it is too costly to keep supporting U.S. allied Kurdish-led forces who “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades.”…..again said “NO,” thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the “sucker,” on NATO, on Trade, on everything. 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….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) FILE – Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa, Syria, July 3, 2017.Turkey views the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main force within the SDF, as an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for greater rights in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast for decades.The United States, however, makes a distinction between the PKK and YPG, backing the YPG-dominated SDF in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.The SDF is holding thousands of people in detention camps in northeastern Syria, including many suspected foreign fighters who traveled from Western nations to join Islamic State.A spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Council, the SDF’s political wing, called the Trump administration decision “ill-conceived” and that Islamic State will “become a threat to the whole world,” with the questionable fate of Islamic State fighters in SDF custody becoming a “great danger” for the region.“The situation over the ISIS detainees who are still organizing themselves while in SDF detention is not clear” according to Amjad Othman, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Council. “We repeatedly called for foreign states to take responsibility for their ISIS nationals. But there was no response”The White House, in its Sunday statement, said France, Germany and other European nations have refused to take back their nationals and that the United States will not be holding them.The United States had about 1,000 troops in Syria that have been instrumental in the fight against IS before Trump ordered a gradual withdrawal.Former special presidential envoy for the anti-Islamic State global coalition, Brett McGurk, says Trump’s decision “demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground.”Will @POTUS stand up for American personnel deployed in Syria on his orders? Or is he looking for an excuse to pull them all out? A Turkish attack will increase risks to our people, fracture the SDF, and enable ISIS’s resurgence. Clear picture. https://t.co/B9EodBd56d— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) October 5, 2019