Oct 13, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump defends decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria

 President Donald Trump speaks at the Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on October 12, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump told the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., an annual conference of Christian conservatives, that he feels like he's on an "island of one" over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. But he said the U.S. has to "bring our great heroes" home.

Why it matters: Trump has faced criticism from some Republicans and religious conservatives concerned that he's "left Kurdish Christians open to Turkey’s military offensive," per the Washington Post. Turkey launched a military offensive soon after the president announced the withdrawal.

  • Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired 4-star general, told NBC News that the Islamic State, or ISIS, militant group "will resurge" unless the U.S. keeps up pressure in northern Syria.

The big picture: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are drafting a bipartisan bill to sanction Turkey for attacking the primarily Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which partnered with the U.S. in 2015 in the fight against ISIS.

  • Graham told Axios' Jonathan Swan this week that Trump was "putting the nation at risk, and I think he's putting his presidency at risk."

What he's saying: Trump told the Value Voters Summit that the Kurdish forces "are fighting for their land." "They haven’t help us fight for our land," he said. "They’re fighting for their land and that’s good, but we’ve helped them."

"I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years guarding a border between Turkey and Syria when we can’t guard our own borders at home."

Go deeper: Syria decision exposes Trump to political peril

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