Sunday morning political talk shows were dominated by fallout from President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from North Syria, which critics said gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a green light to attack American-allied Kurdish militias — risking a resurgence of the so-called Islamic State and a slaughter of the Kurds.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they’re concerned about the fate of the Kurds and what signal Trump’s actions sends to U.S. allies.
Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on NBC:
“I can think of nothing more disgusting in all the years I’ve been in Congress than what this president is allowing to happen with the Kurds. They have been our loyal and faithful allies for so many years, and after this, who again would trust the United States to be an ally of them? … This is going to make people flee from us, and it’s just absolutely disgraceful that the president of the United States is facilitating all of this.”
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran, on CBS:
“The Kurds found out on Twitter for goodness sakes. We have left them to the wolves. And the message this is sending to our allies around the world I think is really going to be bad.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, on ABC:
“What does it say to the entire world that you have a president who gets off the phone with Erdogan of Turkey and then sends out a tweet that says, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re deserting these people who have put their lives on the line to work with us in fighting against some of the worst terrorists in the world.’ It sends a message to the entire world — you cannot trust the United States of America anymore, in foreign affairs.”
Former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, on NBC:
“We may want a war over; we may even declare it over. You can pull your troops out, as President Obama learned the hard way out of Iraq, but the ‘enemy gets the vote,’ we say in the military. And in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”
Others said the situation is more nuanced, and Trump administration officials defended the president’s actions.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on NBC:
“It’s a very complicated, messy situation. But I think a lot of people are not acknowledging that Turkey was coming in one way or another, and 50 soldiers would simply be in the way and be a trip wire to a much worse outcome.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, on CBS:
“It’s a terrible situation. We condemn it. We have condemned it. These are justice things that we told the Turks would happen and play out. Who’s conducting it, it’s unclear at this point and time.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on ABC:
“The analogy that everybody’s saying is we’re abandoning the Kurds like the Kurds are these longstanding allies. Our role in Syria was not to defend land for the Kurds in historical issues. Our focus was to defeat ISIS. So you have a longstanding conflict between people that have been helping us with ISIS and Turkey, which is a NATO ally. This isn’t Russia attacking the Kurds, this is a NATO ally. And again, we’ve put them on warning, the president has authorized me to effectively shut down the entire Turkey economy, and we can do that at a moment’s notice, on his command.”