Key Republicans outraged over Trump pullback in Syria

Washington (AFP) –


Influential Republicans including staunch allies of Donald Trump in Congress angrily criticized the president Monday for pulling back US troops from key areas of northern Syria, warning the move abandons battlefield allies the Kurds.

Senator Lindsey Graham said he will call on Congress to reverse the sudden decision to withdraw American forces from positions along or near Turkey's border with Syria, essentially greenlighting Ankara's long-threatened move against the Kurds and raising fears of a jihadist comeback.

Graham, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and one of Trump's most outspoken supporters, described the move as "a disaster in the making."

He said it would be "a stain on America's honor for abandoning the Kurds," who were Washington's main ally in the years-old battle against the so-called Islamic State group.

"Also, if this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support," the senator tweeted.

Democrats also hammered the president. Senator Bernie Sanders, who seeks the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination, tweeted that while he supports ending US military intervention in the Middle East, Trump's "extremely irresponsible" announcement is "likely to result in more suffering and instability."

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state Trump defeated in 2016, accused the president of committing "a sickening betrayal both of the Kurds and his oath of office."

After a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said Ankara would "soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria" -- and that US forces would "no longer be in the immediate area."

The announcement stunned and angered several Republicans.

"Withdrawing US forces from Northern Syria is a catastrophic mistake that puts our gains against ISIS at risk and threatens US security," tweeted Liz Cheney, the number three House Republican.

Senator Mitt Romney called the withdrawal "a betrayal" that facilitates a jihadist resurgence.

Trump took to Twitter to defend the withdrawal, saying the region would have to "figure the situation out."

"The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so," he said.

"They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home."

The strident objections included a slap by Trump's former UN envoy Nikki Haley, a Republican seen by some as a potential post-Trump presidential candidate.

"We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back," Haley said, calling the Kurds "instrumental" in the US fight against ISIS.

"Leaving them to die is a big mistake."

Trump even received push-back from a host of "Fox & Friends," a show followed closely by the president.

With Washington opening the door for Turkish action against the Kurds, "what kind of message is that to the next ally that wants to side with us?" Brian Kilmeade said on the show Monday.

"I hope the president will rethink this."