- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2019

In a move rarely seen on Capitol Hill, both Republicans and Democrats are condemning President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. forces out of northeast Syria, apparently giving Turkey a green light to conduct a long-awaited strike on American-allied Kurdish-led fighters in the region.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a noted Trump ally on the Hill, led a slew of legislators calling on the president to rethink his decision Monday.

“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view,” Mr. Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Fox News. “I hope we reconsider this.”

Mrs. Pelosi said Mr. Trump “must reverse this dangerous decision” that she called “reckless [and] misguided” in her own statement hours later.

Mr. McConnell was equally pointed, noting Congress had already put itself on record earlier this year supporting the Kurds and backing a continued U.S. presence in Syria to contain the Islamic State.

“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,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “… As we learned the hard way during the Obama administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”

Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement late Sunday evening came as a shock to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have partnered with Washington for years in the battle against the Islamic State.

Kurdish fighters have accused Mr. Trump of a “stab in the back” for the decision that opens the door to a Turkish-led military operation against the group that Ankara views as a threat to its own security.

The Kurds have many friends in Congress, in part for their role in rolling back Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and many spoke out against Mr. Trump’s move. They also warned the Islamic State could rebuild its forces if the Kurds cease to aid the U.S. coalition inside Syria.

“As the Syrian people seek stability post-conflict, we ought not to give ISIS any room to regain territory,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican. “Syria’s location leaves it vulnerable to adversaries, and an American presence preserves the possibility for peace,” she continued.

Democrats took an even harder stance against the decision that many said could cause a resurgence of the Islamic State — whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly insisted had been defeated.

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said the withdrawal “will invite a fresh wave of terrorism, insurgency and chaos in the Middle East, providing conditions for ISIS to regenerate and allowing Iran and Russia to further entrench themselves in Syria.”

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee claimed Mr. Trump is “conducting U.S. foreign policy through the singular domestic focus of reelection politics,” and is “again doing Russia’s bidding.

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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