Stories

McConnell: U.S. pullout from Syria sets back fight against terrorism

this image is a close up of Mitch McConnell's face
Mitch McConnell on Sept. 24, 2019. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the U.S. withdrawal from Syria would set back years of fighting ISIS and other terrorists and allow Iran and Russia to expand their influence in the area, in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday.

Why it matters: McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate, has sharpened his criticism for President Trump's actions in Syria one day after the U.S. reached a cease-fire agreement. That agreement did not prevent clashes from breaking out between Kurdish and Turkish forces on Friday and has not restrained other Trump allies from criticizing his decision to leave the region prior to Turkeys military operation.

"Even if the five-day cease-fire announced Thursday holds, events of the past week have set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists.
Unless halted, our retreat will invite the brutal Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers to expand their influence. And we are ignoring Russia’s efforts to leverage its increasingly dominant position in Syria to amass power and influence throughout the Middle East and beyond."
... To keep pressure on Islamic State terrorists, deter Iranian aggression and buy our local partners more leverage to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad to end the underlying conflict, we should retain a limited military presence in Syria and maintain our presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region."

The bottom line: McConnell said the U.S. withdrawal of troops and escalating Turkish-Kurdish hostilities are "creating a strategic nightmare for our country."

Go deeper: Fighting eases after flare between Turks and Kurds in Syria