Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lambasted President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria in an op-ed Friday, calling the move a “grave strategic mistake” that threatens to bring “terror to our shores.”
“The combination of a U.S. pullback and the escalating Turkish-Kurdish hostilities is creating a strategic nightmare for our country,” McConnell warned in The Washington Post. The events 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.”
McConnell also noted that “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. … Predictably, our adversaries seem to be relishing these developments.”
The Kentucky senator pointed to his experience working with three presidential administrations since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and learning that the threat from groups like the self-described Islamic State, also known as ISIS, “is real and cannot be wished away,” he warned.
He pointed out that the U.S. is “not in this fight alone,” and has relied on local forces, including the Kurds, in the fight against ISIS. “Ironically, Syria had been a model for this increasingly successful approach,” McConnell noted.
“We saw humanitarian disaster and a terrorist free-for-all after we abandoned Afghanistan in the 1990s, laying the groundwork for 9/11,” McConnell wrote. “We will see these things anew in Syria and Afghanistan if we abandon our partners and retreat from these conflicts before they are won.”
Earlier this month, Trump agreed to cede the battlefield in northeast Syria to Turkey, which began attacking Kurdish residents of the region almost immediately.
Read McConnell’s entire op-ed here.