In a rare public rebuke of President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ripped into the president’s decision to abruptly pull US troops from northern Syria ahead of a Turkish offensive on Kurdish allies.
“Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances. Sadly, the recently announced pullout risks repeating the Obama administration’s reckless withdrawal from Iraq,” McConnell wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Friday.
The Senate majority leader added that the combination of the U.S. retreat and the fighting between Turkey, which invaded northern Syria, and the Kurds was creating a “strategic nightmare” for the United States.
McConnell argued that even if a five-day cease-fire holds in the region, the pullback of U.S. troops and Turkey’s invasion had “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. And 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,” he added.
McConnell specifically pointed to reports of Russians filming themselves at abandoned U.S. bases within Syria calling it a “strategic calamity neatly captured in one Facebook post.”
Trump’s decision has sparked a fierce backlash from traditional GOP allies on Capitol Hill, who called it “catastrophic,” a “grave mistake” and a “disaster in the making.”
McConnell told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday that he had told Trump privately, as well as publicly, that he disagreed with the decision.
“I don’t know how many times I need to say it and I think I’m speaking for most members of my conference that this was a mistake, and I hope it can be repaired,” McConnell said at the time.
Trump has defended his decision by claiming it is “time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars.”
But McConnell appeared to take issue with his claim, writing that “America’s wars will be ‘endless’ only if America refuses to win them.”