Rick Santorum, former GOP presidential hopeful, rips Donald Trump’s ‘horrible’ Syria policy
President Trump came under fire Wednesday from former campaign rival Rick Santorum over his “horrible” decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and put the future of the Islamic State terrorist organization into the hands of his Turkish counterpart.
“If what the president wants, and I believe he does, is to see a regime change in Iran, doing what he is doing in Syria is not going to help that. This will embolden and give the Iranian government something to crow about back home,” said Mr. Santorum, a former Republican senator for Pennsylvania who lost the party’s White House nomination to Mr. Trump in 2016.
“Secondly, the way he did it in the face of the president of Turkey, basically abandoning our allies who the Turks see as terrorists, is just a horrible piece of foreign policy,” Mr. Santorum said on CNN. “I just am very disappointed in the president, that he would do this in this fashion.”
Mr. Trump announced Dec. 19 that the U.S. would withdraw from Syria, claiming victory over the Islamic State terrorist organization, also known as ISIS, that wreaked havoc across parts of that nation and neighboring Iraq during the past several years.
Republicans and Democrats alike called Mr. Trump’s claim into question, however, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers writing the White House last week urging the president to reconsider leaving the roughly 2,000 troops behind.
“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,” lawmakers wrote last week.
“His base is not solidly behind him on this,” Mr. Santorum said Wednesday. “I would encourage him to take a step back, listen to some of the wise people that he has around him and who are talking around the country, and do a more gradual exit from Syria than what he’s anticipated.”
Mr. Trump said in the interim that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria.”
“We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, and the slow and highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area,” Mr. Trump announced on Twitter over the weekend following a phone call with Mr. Erdogan. “Our troops are coming home!”
More recently, Mr. Trump defended his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria during a surprise visit Wednesday to the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq.
“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds,” Mr. Trump told U.S. troops.
“Eight years ago, we went there for three months and we never left,” Mr. Trump added. “Now, we’re doing it right and we’re going to finish it off.”
The U.S. deployed troops to Syria in 2014, three years after a civil war erupted between opposition fighters and the government led by President Bashar Assad.
Mr. Santorum, 60, represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007 prior to losing the Republican Party’s nomination for president to Mr. Trump in 2016. He is currently a political commentator for CNN.