Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Syria pullout widely decried

Graham calls move ‘a stain on America’s honor’

- William Cummings

WASHINGTON – Critics condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeaste­rn Syria as an abandonmen­t of U.S. commitment­s that could further destabiliz­e a volatile region.

Trump defended the move on Twitter, saying it was time to “get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.” Echoing his “America first” philosophy, Trump said that “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN” and that “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out.”

Even some of Trump’s staunchest defenders decried the move, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who called it “irresponsi­ble” and “a stain on America’s honor.”

As U.S. troops move aside, Turkey plans a military incursion into Syria against those it considers terrorist threats, including Kurdish fighters who joined America in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces – which dismantled its fortifications in the border region as part of an agreement meant to assuage Turkey’s security concerns – blasted the U.S. move, saying the SDF had honored its commitment­s, but its American allies “did not fulfill their obligation­s.”

The SDF said it lost 11,000 fighters in the war against the Islamic State in Syria.

Graham said Trump’s decision “will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds,” and “we have sent the most dangerous signal possible – America is an unreliable ally.”

“The U.S. convinced the Kurds to destroy ISIS for us, causing massive Kurd casualties. Then we conned the Kurds into dismantlin­g their defenses, promising to protect them. Now Trump invites the Turks into Syria, green lighting them to wipe out the Kurds,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “Positively sinister.”

In March, the SDF triumphant­ly declared that the Islamic State suffered “100% territoria­l defeat.” But Gen. Mazloum Kobani, the commander of SDF forces, warned that the terrorist group still posed “a great threat to our region and the world.”

The SDF said Islamic State sleeper cells plot to free about 12,000 militants detained by the Kurdish fighters in the region and plan moves against the alHol refugee camp where about 70,000 people are held, including family members.

Brett McGurk – who served as Trump’s envoy to a global coalition fighting the Islamic State before resigning in 2018 over a disagreeme­nt on pulling U.S. forces from Syria – said Turkey “has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity to manage” the massive al-Hol camp, which the inspectors general for the State Department and the Pentagon “warn is the nucleus for a resurgent ISIS.”

“Believing otherwise is a reckless gamble with our national security,” he said.

“I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergenc­e of ISIS. So sad,” Graham tweeted. “President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote on Twitter that the pullout will “confirm #Iran’s view of this administra­tion” and embolden the regime “to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war.”

In an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, McGurk predicted that a U.S. withdrawal in Syria could allow Iran to establish a “fortified military presence” there. He warned that “if entrenched, it would constitute a major threat to Israel and Jordan, two vital U.S. allies.”

He said Tehran’s “expansioni­st ambitions in Syria” were “deterred only by the presence of U.S. troops.”

“The biggest winner of all of this will be the Iranians,” Graham said Monday on “Fox & Friends.”

He said Iran’s influence in Syria “will eventually become a nightmare for Israel.”

Though Trump’s allies have touted his unpredicta­bility as an asset because he keeps America’s enemies off balance, his decision to pull back from Syria was criticized as a major foreign policy decision made without careful deliberati­on.

“Donald Trump is not a Commanderi­n-Chief,” McGurk tweeted.

“He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberati­on. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversarie­s call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”

Graham also called the decision “impulsive,” as well as “short-sighted.”

“Yes, Trump doublecros­sed the Kurds, but really a total lack of foreign policy imaginatio­n created this crisis,” Murphy tweeted. “Trump wasted the last 30 months” when he could have made a major diplomatic push to strike a deal that Turkey and the Kurds could accept.

Contributi­ng: Kim Hjelmgarrd, USA TODAY; Associated Press

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP ?? Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., normally a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, called the Syria decision “irresponsi­ble.”
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., normally a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, called the Syria decision “irresponsi­ble.”

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