House Democrats warn Syria pullout endangers U.S. security, could lead to ISIS resurgence
A growing chorus of House Democrats and Republicans is criticizing President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria, saying it endangers America's safety and relationship with allies, and could lead to regional instability and the freeing of captured Islamic State fighters.
"This pullout is going to hurt our national security," U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi told the Daily Herald Editorial Board during a meeting this week. "And it's going to hurt our relationship with current and future allies, and anybody who wants to assist us anywhere in the world."
The U.S. and its coalition allies have been working with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which it maintained a stronghold stretching across northeastern Syria and much of northern and western Iraq.
There has been bipartisan backlash to Trump's decision remove 50 U.S. troops from northern Syria, essentially abandoning Kurdish forces.
Within days of the U.S. pullout, the Turkish military launched air and ground attacks on Kurdish-held territory in northeast Syria sending thousands of civilians fleeing from border areas.
The Kurdish militia is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PPK, which has led an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years. Turkey and other Western countries have deemed PPK a terrorist group.
On Thursday, U.S. Reps. Sean Casten and Bill Foster joined dozens of House lawmakers in pressing Trump to outline his Syria strategy and plan going forward in a letter.
"The president's abrupt decision has already allowed the Turkish regime to invade northern Syria, harming American-backed Kurdish troops -- allies who have stood by the U.S. in the fight against ISIS," said Casten, a Democrat from Downers Grove. "Congress and the American people need answers."
Foster, a Naperville Democrat, called Trump's move "erratic, dangerous and a betrayal of America's honor."
"This impulsive decision has caused very real national security concerns for the U.S.," Foster said. "One of the real concerns is it just seems like this was done over the objections of (Trump's) experienced military advisers."
Syrian refugees fleeing the Turkish incursion "are just going to be left hanging out to dry," said Foster adding, it's unlikely the Trump administration will increase immigration quotas.
Trump has dismissed concerns that thousands of ISIS fighters might escape to Europe or elsewhere amid the chaos.
U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat, said pulling U.S. troops out at this juncture is a tactical mistake, and morally wrong.
"The Kurds lost 11,000 fighters in our joint battle to defeat ISIS, and their sacrifice meant that we did not need to put large numbers of American troops on the ground and in harm's way," Schneider said. "The Kurds looked to the United States as a trusted partner and the president has now cavalierly turned his back on that relationship."
Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said ISIS is alive and well and the fight isn't over.
"It's a myth, if the president wants the people of America to believe that ISIS in that part of the region is gone. It's not," he said. "In fact, there are 11,000 (ISIS) fighters ... within Kurdish custody who are likely to escape once the Turks direct their fire at the Kurdish fighters."
Krishnamoorthi said it puts future alliances to safeguard U.S. security interests at risk.
"Who would want to assist us, if we say to them ... 'we are with you. We're going to fight this common enemy. But, oh yeah, we're going to leave when it's convenient to us and leave you to the wolves'? I don't see how that enhances our national security," he said.