Military Capabilities

Growing backlash in US to Trump’s Syrian pullback

11 October 2019

US troops patrol in the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ayn on 6 October, the day their withdrawal was announced by Donald Trump. Source: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

US President Donald Trump's decision not to defend the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Turkish military attacks has united Republican and Democratic lawmakers against him.

Trump decided to withdraw about 50 US troops from northeast Syria in anticipation of Ankara launching a military offensive in the region targeting Kurdish fighters who have helped the United States fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or Daish). Lawmakers from both parties are now calling Trump's decision a disaster and a misstep that will shake ally trust for years to come.

"It would be a grave mistake for Turkey to send its military forces into Syria provoking hostilities with the Syrian Democratic Forces," Representative Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, wrote in a 7 October statement. "It would also be a grave mistake for the US to unilaterally withdraw from Syria or to acquiesce in any way to a Turkish invasion. The consequences of these decisions will be severe and lasting for the Middle East and for the rest of the world."

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen took their criticisms a step further by unveiling a sanctions bill against Turkey. If passed into law, the measure requires the Trump administration to confirm to Congress every 90 days that Turkey is not operating in Syrian territory without US support. If the administration is not able to certify this, the sanctions will then target prominent Turkish leaders, including the president and vice president, as well as foreign nationals providing "financial, material or technological support" to the Turkish military to include aircraft parts, weapons, automotive equipment, and more.

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