WASHINGTON – The House on Wednesday issued a bipartisan rebuke to President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops in northern Syria that has led to attacks on Syrian Kurds by Turkey.
More than 100 House Republicans joined all of their Democratic colleagues in voting 354-60 for a resolution condemning Trump’s move, which exposed the Kurds, a group that has been a U.S. ally against ISIS, to Turkish assault.
“It just opened the door for ISIS to reclaim some power,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said on the House floor. “Any terrorist attack they now take will be as a direct result of this action.”
“Congress in a bipartisan way is appalled by the failure of this president to stand by an ally in the fight against ISIS,” Hoyer said.
Rep. David Trone, D-Potomac, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is the vice chairman of the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism subcommittee, called Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria “Capricious. Wrong-headed. Morally bankrupt” on Twitter.
The House vote preceded a hearing by Trone’s subcommittee that reviewed the recommendations of the bipartisan Syria Study Group, set up by Congress before the current Trump controversy to guide policymaking in a volatile corner of the Middle East.
The Syria Study Group released its report last month, stating “the United States should halt its military withdrawal from northeastern Syria.”
In the wake of Trump’s removal of troops, the study group’s co-chairman, Michael Singh, told lawmakers that “we should be now trying to shape Turkish actions using sanctions or the threat of sanctions – not to punish Turkey but to try to lay down some conditions or red lines for Turkey.”
He continued, recommending that “If we do need to use sanctions, use them in a way that are sufficiently strong that will cause Turkey to reconsider some of these actions,” said Singh, who is also managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a nonpartisan think tank.
Both Singh and co-chairwoman Dana Stroul argued for the importance of maintaining a military presence in Syria. Stroul, also with the Washington Institute and a former Defense Department official, said the issue includes more than containing ISIS and is “about the broader leverage of that one-third of Syria, which is the resource-rich part of Syria.”
Trump reiterated Wednesday that he did not give Turkey a so-called “green light” to invade northern Syria, even though most observers made a contradictory interpretation.
In a statement announcing sanctions against Turkey, Trump said “Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region.”
But the president also signaled that he does not care about how the conflict in northern Syria plays out.
“There’s a lot of sand they can play with,” Trump said.
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, are working jointly to get sanctions passed in the Senate.
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to travel to Turkey to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss potential paths to halt hostilities.