President Donald Trump’s decision to step aside from Kurdish allies in Syria while Turkey’s military advances drew a stark rebuke Monday from one of his staunchest Republican backers.
“This is going to lead to the reemergence of ISIS, and the biggest winner of all this will be the Iranians, and that’s too bad,” Senator Lindsey Graham, told Fox News in a phone call. He said he would sponsor a resolution urging Trump to reconsider this decision, calling it “shortsighted and irresponsible.”
The South Carolina Republican usually is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the Senate, raising the question about whether other lawmakers will join in his criticism. Trump’s approach to Syria has previously angered administration officials, including former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned last December after Trump said the U.S. would withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan — a decision Trump later reversed.
Trump defended his decision Monday in Twitter , insisting the U.S. can’t afford to be stuck in “ridiculous endless wars.’ The U.S. was only supposed to be in Syria for 30 days but stayed and “got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” he tweeted, insisting he’d held off this fight for almost three years.
Trump’s move represents a significant shift in U.S. policy that raises questions about the fate of tens of thousands of Islamic State detainees and casts further doubt on the reliability of the U.S. as an ally in the region.
Trump said Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to “figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.”’
The White House said Turkey would take responsibility for any Islamic State fighters captured in the area over the past two years. It gave no details and it wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, plan the NATO allies had agreed to handle the detainees or how they would be transferred to Turkish custody.
But the assurance represents a potential win for Trump, who has insisted that the U.S. would bear no responsibility for any Islamic State detainees, as he gears up for the 2020 election.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a close U.S. ally in the fight to defeat Islamic State. But Turkey considers Syria’s Kurdish militants a threat to its national security, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces are ready to begin a military operation against them in northeastern Syria.
The U.S. in 2015 provided air support for Kurdish militias to retake the critical town of Kobani from Islamic State and has since used Kurdish fighters as ground troops in the campaign to clear Syria of the group.
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