- Top Republicans sounded off against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all US ground forces from Syria within 30 days.
- In a letter signed by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Joni Ernst of Iowa, the lawmakers called Trump’s decision a “premature and costly mistake.”
- “While you believe the threat of ISIS has dissipated, the conditions on the ground paint a very different picture,” the letter reads.
Top Republican senators sounded off against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all US ground forces from Syria within 30 days, a move that caught many lawmakers and defence officials off guard on Wednesday.
In a letter signed by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Joni Ernst of Iowa, the lawmakers called Trump’s decision a “premature and costly mistake.”
“While you believe the threat of ISIS has dissipated, the conditions on the ground paint a very different picture,” the letter said.
Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire described the roughly 2,000 US ground forces stationed in Syria as “small and limited,” but said they have been effective in fighting ISIS militants and deterring Russia’s influence in the region.
“If you decide to follow through with your decision to pull our troops out of Syria, any remnants of ISIS in Syria will surely renew and embolden their efforts in the region,” the letter said.
“The withdrawal of American presence from Syria also bolsters two other adversaries to the United States, Iran and Russia,” the letter continued. “As you are aware, both Iran and Russia have used the Syrian conflict as a stage to magnify their influence in the region. Any sign of weakness perceived by Iran or Russia will only result in their increased presence in the region and a decrease in the trust of our partners and allies.”
Trump announced he would be pulling ground forces out of Syria on Wednesday, a decision some lawmakers characterised as abrupt and without warning from the White House.
Trump claimed the “only reason for being there” was to defeat ISIS, and that US completed its mission during his two years as president. However, the decision appears to conflict with the assessment from his senior advisers, including Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and coalition envoy Brett McGurk.
Mattis previously suggested US troops would maintain a presence in Syria after defeating ISIS, citing threats from Iran and a potential resurgence of the militant group.
Days before Trump’s decision, McGurk also said the US was “committed to working with our partners” in Syria, and that “any reports indicating a change in the US position” was “false and designed to sow confusion and chaos.”
“I’ve never seen a decision like this since I’ve been here 12 years, where nothing is communicated in advance and all of a sudden, this type of massive decision takes place,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said to reporters.
“I doubt there’s anybody in the Republican caucus in the Senate that just isn’t stunned by this precipitous decision,” Corker added.
However, a senior administration official speaking to reporters on Wednesday downplayed the abruptness of the decision and suggested it ought to have been expected.
“I will say the President’s statements on this topic has been 100% consistent from the campaign through his announcement today,” the official said. “And so the notion that anyone within the administration was caught unaware, I would challenge that, quite frankly. And it was the President’s decision to make, and he made it.”
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