U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to the announcement by the White House that the Trump Administration will withdraw United States forces from northern Syria and drop its support for American-backed Kurdish forces.
“Once again, the Trump Administration has upended longstanding policy with an impulsive, politically-driven decision that will sacrifice long-term U.S. national security interests. This thoughtless decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria comes seemingly at the behest of Turkish and Russian leaders and over the advice of our career military and diplomatic officials. Even the President’s own senior leadership acknowledges ISIS and its affiliates have not been defeated and continue to threaten our security interests.
“This impulsive withdrawal again reinforces to the world that the United States is not a reliable partner under this President. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been the United States’ most dependable allies in the fight against ISIS; taking heavy casualties alongside U.S. troops and at our encouragement withdrawing from the Turkish border in a good faith implementation of an agreement with Turkey. The President’s decision to turn our back on the S.D.F. leaves them at risk of wholesale slaughter, and potentially turning to the murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad for protection. Their fight for self-defense will also likely lead Kurdish forces to give up guarding the Al Hol Camp, as well as other detention centers, where thousands of ISIS affiliates are being detained. The 14,000 remaining ISIS fighters will see this as an open invitation to carry out a long-feared jail break and to recruit and reconstitute, further menacing neighboring Iraq at a time when that country is facing growing protests and instability. Displaced Syrians, who have already suffered unthinkable horrors and who make up the majority of residents at Al Hol, will also bear an outsized share of harm from this decision. Compounding their misery, the withdrawal of U.S. troops threatens the provision of humanitarian and stabilization assistance.
“The President’s fundamental disregard for the value of diplomacy and his disdain for our nation’s allies continue to weaken America’s reach across the globe. And as we’ve been reminded recently, Conducting U.S. foreign policy through the singular domestic focus of reelection politics is simply inappropriate and irresponsible. This rash decision will invite a fresh wave of terrorism, insurgency and chaos in the Middle East, providing conditions for ISIS to regenerate and allowing Iran and Russia to further entrench themselves in Syria. Trump is again doing Russia’s bidding and siding with Turkey’s authoritarian leader, over our allies and our national security interests. As the outpouring of bipartisan criticism shows, this is an enormous and consequential mistake. I will work with my colleagues across the Congress to push back on this dangerous and shortsighted decision.”