On Thursday, six United States senators, in a bipartisan effort, wrote a blunt letter to President Trump warning him that his pronouncement on Wednesday that the U.S. would pull its 2,000 troops out of Syria was a grave mistake. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) were joined by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Angus King (I-ME) in expressing their concern over Trump’s decision.
The group of senators decried the decision as a "premature and costly mistake that not only threatens the safety and security of the United States, but also emboldens ISIS, Bashar al Assad, Iran, and Russia.” They noted that such a decision would eliminate the crucial support the United States has given Kurdish fighters who have been central in the fight against ISIS, and warned that if Trump pulls U.S. forces out, ISIS will be rejuvenated. They also noted that such a move would embolden Bashar al Assad in his desire for further power.
Finally, the letter pointed out that a withdrawal of U.S. forces would strengthen Iran and Russia, both adversaries of the United States.
The text of the letter reads:
Dear Mr. President:
We write today to express our concern regarding your Administration’s consideration to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. We believe that such action at this time is a premature and costly mistake that not only threatens the safety and security of the United States, but also emboldens ISIS, Bashar al Assad, Iran, and Russia.
The United States currently retains a small and limited military presence within Syria. The approximately 2,000 American troops stationed in Syria serve as a vital shield against ISIS cells operating within Northeast Syria. While you believe the threat of ISIS has dissipated, the conditions on the ground paint a very different picture.
In addition, our troops provide critical support for our Kurdish partners, who have been crucial in the fight against ISIS. If our Kurdish partners in the region lose the support of the United States, we run the risk of a resurgence of ISIS and the possible capitulation or all out destruction of Kurdish resistance in the region.
Furthermore, hundreds of foreign fighters being held in captivity by our Kurdish partners are at risk of being released or worse if our support is withdrawn.
If you decide to follow through with your decision to pull our troops out of Syria, any remnants of ISIS in Syria will surely renew and embolden their efforts in the region. However, ISIS is not the only threat. The brutal dictatorship of Bashar al Assad continues to weigh heavily upon the Syrian people, and we fear that a withdrawal of our troops may embolden Bashar al Assad to take further actions to solidify his power.
The withdrawal of American presence from Syria also bolsters two other adversaries to the United States, Iran and Russia. As you are aware, both Iran and Russia has used the Syrian conflict as a stage to magnify their influence in the region. Any sign of weakness perceived by Iran or Russia will only result in their increased presence in the region and a decrease in the trust of our partners and allies. Your administration must not repeat the same mistakes that previous administrations have made and concede to these bad actors.
In conclusion, we encourage you to reconsider your proposal to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria to ensure that our nation’s strategic interests are secured.
On Wednesday, Graham had blasted the decision, releasing this statement:
If these media reports are true, it will be an Obama-like mistake made by the Trump Administration. While American patience in confronting radical Islam may wane, the radical Islamists’ passion to kill Americans and our allies never wavers.
After visiting Syria earlier this year, it is abundantly clear the approximately 2,000 American troops stationed there are vital to our national security interests.
An American withdrawal at this time would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia. I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world.
Today, we have a small American footprint and limited presence in northeastern Syria in support of our Kurdish allies who were indispensable in the fight against ISIS. Staying there is an insurance policy against the reemergence of ISIS and destruction of our Kurdish allies who fought so bravely against them.
An American withdrawal will put the Kurds and all those who came to America’s aid in destroying ISIS at tremendous risk. It will make it more difficult to recruit future partners willing to confront radical Islam. It will also be seen by Iran and other bad actors as a sign of American weakness in the efforts to contain Iranian expansion.