A bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers from both the Senate and the House of Representatives have sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to expedite the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.
This letter comes from a wildly divergent group of politicians ranging from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Paul and Lee were the only senators to sign the letter.
In December, Trump announced that ISIS had been defeated and that the U.S. would be pulling all its troops out of Syria imminently. This announcement was followed immediately by the resignation of his former defense secretary, James Mattis, as well as confusion from commanders on the ground and dismay from Syrian Kurds.
The Kurds are an ethnic group without a country, spread over territory in Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Armenia. The Turkish government has had trouble with a militant group of Kurds within its own borders and because of this has declared all ethnic Kurds to be terrorists. It has used the instability caused by the Syrian civil war to launch incursions against Kurdish cities, which has in turn pulled the Kurds away from helping the U.S. fight ISIS, a fight in which they’ve proven to be invaluable allies.
The plight of the Kurds presents a tricky dilemma to the Trump administration, which needs to find a way to protect U.S. allies from getting massacred without getting dragged into committing to the endless occupation of an unstable foreign country.
There’s also the question of whether or not ISIS is truly defeated to such an extent that it can’t rebuild itself.
The number of troops in Syria is expected to drop to 1,000 by early May and will eventually shrink to 400, the Pentagon announced on Friday.
In the letter, the senators and members of Congress told the president that they recommended “direct, robust engagement and coordination with both U.S. allies and other regional governments to ensure the safety of Syria’s civilian populations and avert the resurgence of ISIS.” They argued that “U.S. leverage — such as conditioning weapons sales to Turkey” could be effective in preventing Turkish forces from attacking U.S. Kurdish allies.
The U.S. has already tried to put conditions on the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, warning that the deal would be scrapped if the Turkish government did not agree to turn down a deal with Russia to buy S-400 missiles. This standoff has been going on for several months now, with no clear resolution in sight.
And while the letter is bipartisan, not everyone in Congress believes that a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops would be a good idea.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sharply criticized the president’s decision to rapidly withdraw from Syria in a Facebook video from December, warning that while ISIS has been “significantly degraded,” it is “not fair or wise to say it has been defeated.” Conservative Review reached out to Rubio to get his opinion on this letter by his colleagues.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also slammed the decision, calling it a “huge Obama-like mistake.”
The twelve congressional signatories to the letter are Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Justin Amash, R-Mich., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Bill Posey, R-Fla.