Oct 9, 2019

Republicans condemn Turkish assault on Kurds in wake of Trump's Syria decision

Smoke following Turkish bombardment on Syrian town of Ras al-Ain. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

Republican members of Congress on Wednesday harshly condemned Turkey's ongoing military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, which follows President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area.

The big picture: Some of the most intense criticism of Trump's Syria decision, which cleared the way for Turkey to attack Kurdish fighters that they consider terrorists, has come from the president's closest allies in Congress. 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.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): "Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS. Will lead effort in Congress to make Erdogan pay a heavy price. I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working."
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.): "A Turkish military advance into Syria threatens to halt momentum against ISIS, directly assaults our SDF partners, and could give the likes of al-Qaeda and Iran new footholds in the region. Turkey should stop immediately and continue to work with the US to secure the region."
  • GOP House Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): "News from Syria is sickening. Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS."

Go deeper: Syria decision exposes Trump to political peril

Go deeper

Where it stands: Turkey's offensive into Syria

Turkish forces gather in Syria's al-Bab town on Oct. 11. Photo: Zein Al Rifai via Getty Images

Kurdish fighters in northern Syria said they prevented a second jailbreak attempt on Friday at a detention camp for ISIS family members, the New York Times reports, just 3 days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a military offensive in the region.

The latest: The Turkish military captured the center of the Syrian town Ras al-Ayn on Saturday — its "most significant gain" since the start of the offensive, AP reports. 28 Syrian civilians have been killed as of Saturday, per counts from a war monitor cited by AFP and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.N. estimates 100,000 Syrian residents have evacuated to the south.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 12, 2019

Pentagon chief says U.S. troops to leave Syria for Iraq

A soldier stands guard during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in September in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha, near the border with Turkey. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Saturday night that all of the nearly 1,000 U.S. troops leaving Syria will continue the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, from western Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: President Trump has faced scathing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, which paved the way for Turkey to lead a military offensive against Kurdish forces who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

Go deeperArrowOct 20, 2019

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

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.

Go deeperArrowOct 13, 2019