Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria

In this July 11, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, left, talks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they arrive together for a family photo at a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

As Turkish military forces struck Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday following the recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from the war-torn nation, congressional lawmakers representing the Quad-Cities are questioning a decision that has put U.S. allies in peril.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump abruptly called for American troops to leave the region, allowing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to begin what he called “Operation Peace Spring” by launching ground and air attacks on Syrian Kurds that have long been viewed as a terrorist threat on Turkey’s southern border. The Kurdish fighters were influential in the U.S. military’s Middle Eastern strategy to remove the Islamic State, or ISIS, from power there.

Democrats quickly blamed Trump for the situation, calling the move an abandonment of a Middle Eastern ally. Republicans, meanwhile, have expressed support for the Kurds paired with worries about the potential for ISIS to rise up. But they avoided a full-throated condemnation of the Trump administration.

“President Trump campaigned on ending wars and won,” Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement Wednesday. “As president, he is the commander-in-chief with the authority to make this decision. I have concerns about making sure we continue to protect our allies in the region, especially to keep ISIS at bay. American support for the Kurds should continue.”

In a statement, Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois 17th Congressional District called Trump’s decision “misguided,” saying the action “undermines our national security interests and leaves our Kurdish allies behind.”

“Instead of hasty foreign policy decisions, we must look toward long-term efforts that bring stability to the region and uphold our commitments,” she added.

Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District said in a statement that the rapid removal of troops “could create a vacuum in the area, allowing ISIS to return to power in parts of Syria.”

“Unfortunately, this appears to be the latest in a long line of impulsive actions taken by the President where he did not consult any of our allies, went against the advice of US military leaders and has no clear strategy,” he added.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa shared concern on Twitter over the weekend.

“The Kurds have been a critical and reliable partner to the US, and have played an integral role in the fight against ISIS,” she said. “We cannot abandon them now.”

Democratic U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin also condemned the move in posts on Twitter on Sunday following Trump’s announcement of the decision.

“The Syrian Kurds have fought shoulder to shoulder with our troops to defeat ISIS and with one tweet, Donald Trump has abandoned them,” Duckworth said. “Once again, he’s operating as a one-man show, making huge policy changes on a whim and ignoring the advice of national security experts.”

Durbin said on Twitter Sunday: “Pres. Trump’s agreement with Turkish strongman Erdogan to withdraw all US troops from Syria leaves Kurdish allies at risk and ISIS unguarded. Even GOP Senators are breaking with Pres. Trump on this one. How much longer will we tolerate this?”

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