Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday warned President Donald Trump against pulling US forces out of key positions in Syria, arguing that it “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime”.
In a statement quoted by The Hill, McConnell reminded Trump that the Senate voted earlier this year, with overwhelming Republican support, in favor of a resolution expressing strong opposition to a military withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan.
“The conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today. While the physical caliphate has been removed, ISIS and al Qaeda remain dangerous forces in Syria and the ongoing Syrian civil war poses significant security and humanitarian risks,” he said.
“I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” added McConnell.
“Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”
“As we learned the hard way during the Obama Administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal,” McConnell warned.
His comments follow the White House’s announcement late Sunday night that the US will pull back its forces from parts of northern Syria, opening the door for a major operation by the Turkish military in Syrian territory.
Trump on Monday defended his administration’s plans to withdraw US forces from northern Syria and permit Turkey to operate in the area, signaling that America’s role in Syria may be coming to an end.
In a series of tweets, the president said it was “time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars”, adding that it would be up to other countries, including Turkey, Russia, Iraq, and Iran to “figure the situation out”.
The disagreement between Trump and other Republicans over how to handle the US military presence in Syria and Afghanistan has simmered for months, noted The Hill.
The Senate voted 70 to 26 in February for a resolution McConnell authored warning against a precipitous withdrawal of forces from the region.
The resolution followed Trump’s unexpected announcement that he was immediately withdrawing troops from Syria. Trump had initially called for a 30-day timeframe to complete the pullout, but later agreed to delay completion of the withdrawal.