The House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted its bipartisan condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria.
Despite stark divisions over Democrats’ Trump impeachment inquiry, Democrats and Republicans banded together and approved a nonbinding resolution by 354-60 vote.
The resolution stated Congress’s opposition to the troop pullback and said Turkey should cease its military action in Syria. And the measure said the White House should present a plan for an “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State jihadist group.
Many worry that IS may revive itself as Turkish forces attack Syrian Kurds holding the extremists.
The House debate was extraordinary for the intensity of lawmakers’ opinions.
Republicans called the troop withdrawal “disastrous” and a “catastrophe.” Democrats criticized Trump directly, with Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts saying Trump “has taken the side of dictators and butchers.”
Earlier, Republicans in the Senate criticized Trump’s decision to pull US troops from northeastern Syria, essentially abandoning the Syria Kurd fighters who fought alongside US against Islamic State
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies, said Trump’s decision will allow IS to remerge. The South Carolina Republican said Trump will “be held accountable.”
Graham said Trump’s decision “is against all sound military advice.” He said he hopes Trump “will reconsider, stop the bloodshed and reset the table before it’s too late.”
Graham said that if Trump continues along those lines, “then our foreign policy is in a very bad spot in the Middle East and to those who think the Mideast doesn’t matter to America, remember 9/11 we had that same attitude on 9/10 2001.”
Another Republican senator, Florida’s Marco Rubio, told reporters that he doesn’t know what can be done to undo the harm that’s resulted from the withdrawal. Rubio said “there are some mistakes that are not easy to reverse. And there are some that are irreversible.”
Senate Republicans also expressed support for the US-allied Syrian Kurds.
GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called the partnership “a terrific alliance” that set IS back and said he is “sorry we are where we are.”
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said, “We really have left behind and abandoned a strategic partner, the Kurds, who stood by our men and women in uniform in the fight” to defeat IS.
The criticism came as Trump washed his hands of America’s presence in Syria, declaring the US has no stake in supporting the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as US partners against Islamic State extremists.
Trump said he is fulfilling a campaign promise to bring US troops home from “endless wars” in the Middle East — casting aside criticism that a sudden US withdrawal from Syria not only betrays the Kurdish fighters but stains US credibility around the world and opens an important region to Russia, which is moving in.
“We have a situation where Turkey is taking land from Syria. Syria’s not happy about it. Let them work it out,” Trump said. “They have a problem at a border. It’s not our border. We shouldn’t be losing lives over it.”
He also said the Kurds were “no angels.”
Trump said he was sending Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to urge the Turks to halt their weeklong offensive into northeastern Syria.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.