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Bipartisan opposition builds to Trump’s withdrawal plans: Kinzinger urges president to reconsider Syria decision

December 22, 2018

An Illinois lawmaker says the timing of President Donald Trump’s decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and reduce its presence in Afghanistan by half came as a huge surprise.

Trump said Wednesday that he plans to pull all 2,000 ground troops from Syria and Thursday ordered the Pentagon to formulate plans to bring home about 7,000 of an estimated 14,000 military personnel based in Afghanistan.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and subcommittees that target the Middle East, North Africa and world terrorism. He backed widespread reports that claimed the decisions were made hastily and without consulting advisers.

“Congress and everyone in the administration was surprised,” Kinzinger said. “No one was notified – we didn’t see this coming.”

Although Trump has shown glimpses of isolationist policies of late, Kinzinger said he thought the president would stay committed to the war on terrorists based in those regions.

The decisions were the final straw for Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who turned in his resignation Thursday, saying “The country is safest when it acts according to principles and works closely with friends and allies.” There are rumblings that other protest exits from the administration are in the works.

Opposition to Trump’s national security actions formed quickly on both sides of the aisle.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, who has worked with Mattis on future plans for the Rock Island Arsenal, called Mattis “a patriot who served our country with honor and distinction.” She agrees that it is in the best interest of the country’s national security to maintain strong relationships with its allies and stand up to hostile regimes like Russia.

Bustos said Friday that she finds it deeply concerning that Mattis cited a lack of shared values and principles with the president in his resignation letter. An even bigger concern for her is how the president has been making important decisions.

“Our foreign policy decisions must be thoughtful and deliberate – but too often, the president’s decisions have been impulsive and erratic. National security experts and military leaders have expressed grave concern with the president’s strategy – or the lack thereof – in the Middle East,” Bustos said.

Trump has backed up his decisions by declaring victory against the Islamic State. Although the terrorists have lost most of their territory, they still are waging war against military groups in Syria and Iraq. The situation is eerily similar to President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq 7 years ago.

“I was critical of Obama, and in fairness, this is exactly what I criticized him for,” Kinzinger said. “When Obama did this, it gave al-Qaida a chance to strengthen, and in just a few years, they were able to take back a large amount of land in Iraq and Syria.”

Kinzinger said his heart breaks for U.S. allies in the region and for the Syrian Kurds the U.S. troops had been supporting. The Kurds have led the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia that has led the international war against ISIS. The withdrawal of U.S. troops also puts the Kurds in danger of attacks from Turkey.

The French Foreign Ministry vowed Friday to continue to support the SDF after the departure of U.S. troops.

When asked whether he feared the U.S. would fall deeper into isolationism, Kinzinger said he would have quickly answered “no” 4 days ago.

“We’ve been hawkish against Russia, pushed back against China, and strengthened our forces in Europe, but in the last few days we’ve sent a really bad message to our allies and emboldened our enemies,” Kinzinger said.

The U.S. has been involved in a war in Afghanistan that has been going on for 18 years. In addition to fighting Taliban insurgents, al-Qaida and the Islamic State still have a foothold in that country.

Thursday, Kinzinger and Pennsylvania Democrat Brendan Boyle sent a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider the withdrawal of troops from Syria. They are co-chairs of the Friends of a Free, Stable, and Democratic Syria Caucus in the House.

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