WASHINGTON—Democrats and Republicans in Congress rarely agree, but that changed dramatically on Oct. 7 after President Donald Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, while allowing Turkey to move into the war-torn country and abandoning Kurdish forces that helped defeat ISIS.
“The Syrian Kurds stood with the United States in the fight against ISIS, and this president just betrayed them in a tweet,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who is the ranking minority member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“This will further destabilize the region and haunt the United States for years to come. How can anyone trust the United States under this president,” Warner added.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) reacted just as heatedly as Warner, saying, “It is shameful that the Trump administration would so recklessly abandon a reliable ally and allow for conditions that could return ISIS to power in parts of Syria.
“Actions in Syria, as we have seen, have consequences that reach far beyond its borders, threatening our own country and our allies in Europe and Israel.”
But Republicans reacted just as negatively as Warner, Hoyer, and a host of other Democrats in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted that a “supermajority of the Senate” voted earlier this year to continue supporting U.S. involvement in Syria and expressed concern about the potential for an ISIS revival.
“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,” McConnell said of Trump’s decision.
“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,” McConnell continued.
“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,” he said.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) wasn’t nearly as diplomatic as McConnell.
“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.”
The Nebraska Republican also warned that “before Turkey butchers innocent Kurds, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan should carefully consider his privileged status as a NATO member. The American people don’t partner with genocidal regimes.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been among Trump’s most vocal backers on major issues, was clearly taken aghast by the Syria withdrawal.
“This is going to lead to ISIS’s reemergence. Nothing better for ISIS than to create a conflict between the Kurds and Turkey,” Graham told Fox News. “The Kurds will now align with [Syrian dictator Bashar Hashad al]-Assad because they have nobody to count on, because we abandoned them.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also predicted the Kurds would move to support Assad in the vicious civil war that has wracked Syria for a decade.
Menendez predicted the Kurds will “give up guarding the Al Hol Camp, as well as other detention centers, where thousands of ISIS affiliates are being detained.”