'Leaving them to die': Trump allies blast decision to withdraw troops from Syria

Some of President Trump’s closest allies have condemned his decision to withdraw the U.S. military from Syria, saying it will endanger the lives of Kurdish allies who have been fighting the Islamic State group in the region.

The White House issued a statement Sunday evening saying it “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area” of northern Syria.

The move comes after months of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening a military operation across the border to clear out the Kurdish forces. The White House said the decision to remove approximately 1,000 troops came after a call on Sunday between Trump and Erdogan, who views the Kurds as a threat to his ruling party.

A U.S. soldier sits atop an armored vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats at a U.S.-led international coalition base on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border, Oct. 6, 2019. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
A U.S. soldier sits atop an armored vehicle during a demonstration on Sunday by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., expressed concern over “reports” of Trump’s planned withdrawal, despite the president’s own tweets confirming the move.

Graham said that he and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., plan to introduce “veto-proof” bipartisan sanctions that will call for Turkey’s suspension from NATO if it invades Syria and attacks Kurdish forces.

“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids,” Graham added. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.”

Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, was unequivocal in her criticism.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement charging that the “withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.” He urged Trump to reconsider and 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."

Brett McGurk, Trump’s former envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, tore into Trump in a series of scathing tweets.

Even Brian Kilmeade, co-host of Trump’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” was sharply critical of the president.

“We defeated the caliphate, the caliphate is destroyed, we would not have done that without the Kurds who did all of our fighting,” Kilmeade said. “The reason why our casualties were so low is because the Kurds did all the fighting. Now we’re saying, ‘OK, Turks, go wipe them out or force them out.’ What kind of message is that to the next ally that wants to side with us?

“... Are you kidding me?” Kilmeade continued. “We’re abandoning our most loyal allies who did all our fighting. All we did was arm them and they did all the work, and now we say, ‘Good luck, good luck surviving.’ ... Disaster.”

Kilmeade implored House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a guest on the show, to “call the president before it’s too late.”

“The Americans are traitors,” a Syrian-Kurdish official told NBC News. “They have abandoned us to a Turkish massacre. We can no longer fight against ISIS and have to defend ourselves. This could allow ISIS to return to the region.”

When Trump first announced he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria in December, it led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The pushback from the president’s allies comes amid an impeachment inquiry in Washington and public opinion turning in favor of his removal from office.

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