Robert Burns, Associated Press
Published Wednesday, October 16, 2019 18:03 EDT
WASHINGTON – Washing Syria's hands, US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the US has no interest in supporting Kurdish fighters who died in their thousands as US partners against ISIS extremists. Hours later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats emerged from a White House meeting, accusing him of having a "breakdown", calling it a "third-rate policy" and having no plans to deal with it. a potentially revived Islamic group. State group.
The condemnation of Trump's position on Turkey, Syria and the Kurds was swift and severe during the day, not only from Democrats, but also from Republicans who have firmly supported virtually all issues.
The House, bitterly divided over Trump's impeachment inquiry, joined in an overwhelming 354-60 denunciation of US troop withdrawal. Many lawmakers expressed concern that this could lead to the resurgence of IS, as well as Russian presence and influence in the area – as well as the massacre of many Kurds.
At the White House, Trump said the US has no business in the region – and don't worry about Kurdish fighters.
"They know how to fight," he said. "And by the way, they are not angels."
Following the vote on the condemnation of the House, the congressional leaders of both parties went to the White House for a contentious briefing with the punches of Trump and Pelosi. Democrats said they left when the meeting turned into a festival of insults.
"What we witnessed on the part of the president was a breakdown," Pelosi told reporters, saying Trump seemed visibly "shaken" by the House vote.
"We couldn't go to the meeting because it just wasn't related to reality," she said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has criticized Trump for not having a proper plan to deal with ISD fighters detained by the Kurds. He said the meeting "was not a dialogue, it was a kind of diatribe, an unpleasant not focused on the facts."
Republicans backed off, saying Pelosi was the problem.
"She leaves another meeting, trying to make it unproductive," said Republican Party leader Kevin McCarthy.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham called Pelosi's action "disconcerting but not surprising." She said the speaker "had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues."
Trump himself left the meeting with congressional leaders during the partial government shutdown last January.
In public appearances on Wednesday, Trump said he was fulfilling a campaign promise to bring US troops home from "endless wars" in the Middle East – setting aside criticism that a sudden US withdrawal from Syria betrays the US. Kurdish fighters, tarnishes US credibility around the world and opens an important region for Russia, which is moving.
"We have a situation where Turkey is taking land from Syria. Syria is not happy about it. Let them solve it," said Trump. "They have a border problem. It's not our border. We shouldn't lose lives because of that."
Trump said he was sending Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to ask the Turks to stop their weeklong offensive in northeastern Syria. But his comments, first to reporters at the Oval Office and then at a news conference with his Italian counterpart, have suggested that he sees little at stake for the US.
"Syria may have some help with Russia, and that's good," he said. "They have a lot of sand there. So there is a lot of sand that they can play with."
"Let them fight their own wars."
More than once, Trump has suggested that the United States has little concern in the Middle East because it is geographically distant – a notion shared by some before September 11, 2001, when al Qaeda militants used Afghanistan as a base to attack. This attack unleashed a series of armed conflicts, including in Iraq, which Trump considers a waste of American lives and treasures.
But Republicans also made their concerns clear.
The current withdrawal is Trump's worst decision, said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who often meets with the president and is one of his strongest and most important supporters of Congress.
"For those who think the Middle East doesn't matter to America, remember September 11 – we had the same attitude on September 10, 2001."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he strongly disagrees with Trump and told the president. But he asked, "What tools do we have" to support this disagreement?
Florida Senator Marco Rubio told reporters he did not know what could be done to undo the damage he was causing.
"There are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are others that are irreversible," said Rubio, who was a rival of Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria a week ago, two days after Trump suddenly announced that he was removing the US from the area. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wanted to create a 30-kilometer "safe zone" in Syria.
Ankara has long argued that Kurdish fighters are but an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has been running a guerrilla campaign in Turkey since the 1980s and that Turkey, as well as the US and the European Union, designate terrorists. organization.
Trump has misread the progress made so far by the US military in carrying out its instructions to withdraw all 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria. He referred to the roughly two dozen soldiers who left Turkey's initial strike zone last week, but considered it to mean that the US "largely" completed its withdrawal.
A US official familiar with planning for the 1,000 withdrawal said they are consolidating on two main bases but have not yet started to leave Syria in significant numbers. Military equipment is being collected and transported, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the withdrawal, which poses major security risks.
Trump underestimated the crisis that followed his decision to leave Syria, which critics said gave Turkey a green light to invade Kurdish fighters.
"It's not between Turkey and the United States, as many stupid people would like you to believe," said Trump, adding that he is more than willing to let opponents fight in this area of the Middle East.
In the meantime, he said, "Our soldiers are not in danger, as they should not be."
Trump imposed new sanctions on Turkey this week in an attempt to force Erdogan to end his attack. But he said on Wednesday, "It's time for us to go home."
Even as Trump advocated his removal of US troops from northeastern Syria, he praised his decision to send more troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom defend itself against Iran.
Trump said the US is sending missiles and "great power" to the Saudis, and "they are paying for it."
Contributors contributed to Alan Fram, Darlene Superville, Jill Colvin, Kevin Freking, and Ellen Knickmeyer.