WASHINGTON, DC – Today, after President Trump declared victory over the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) and ordered a sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, catching some of his own advisors and U.S. allies off guard, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement:
“The hasty, disjointed manner in which this announcement was made demonstrates an Administration in disarray and provides further evidence of President Trump’s inability to lead on the world stage. Just because President Trump tweets that he has defeated ISIS doesn’t make us safer, especially when the reality is very different on the ground. The President continues to disregard the advice of his military, diplomatic, and intelligence personnel who have consistently warned against the action the President seems poised to take.
“Just two weeks ago, General McKenzie, nominated by the President to be the next Commander of U.S. Central Command said: “ISIS probably still is more capable than al Qaeda in Iraq at its peak, suggesting it is well positioned to re-emerge if pressure on the group is relieved.”
“And even the President’s own advisors say this course of action is reckless. His Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk stated: “We are now in a position where, because of the success of the military campaign, we are heavily influencing that part of Syria, want to make sure that we maintain a permissive environment and stability, and basically freeze the lines in place as [Special Representative for Syria Engagement Jim Jeffrey] and others work the longer-term political solution. So obviously, it would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”
“This is why our troops in Syria have been transitioning over the past year to training local security forces necessary to prevent the re-emergence of ISIS. Those forces are not yet able to stand on their own and efforts to establish effective local governance remain in their infancy. This is a recipe for a quick return of ISIS, tribalism and warlordism, or worse.
“Pulling out of Syria in this manner would be a betrayal of our Kurdish partners who, along with other Arab partners, have sacrificed so much to take on ISIS - not only by evicting ISIS from traditional Kurdish areas, but also continuing to pursue remnants of the group deep into the Euphrates River Valley. Now the President seems content to forsake their trust and abandon them to a potentially bloody conflict with Turkey.
“This decision also significantly increases the security risks to our key regional partners in Israel, Iraq, and Jordan. Specifically, the removal of U.S. troops from southeast Syria will cede a land route to the Iranians that will likely be used to freely move weapons and personnel across the region, many of which could be used for the purposes of attacking Israel. This significantly raises the risk of escalation and, potentially, triggering a regional conflict.
“Withdrawal of our U.S. military personnel also risks destabilizing Iraq and Jordan at a time when both countries continue to deal with substantial refugee flows and population displacement and governance challenges.
“The clear beneficiaries from a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces at this point are the Assad regime, ISIS, Russia, and Iran. It takes the heat off of them and will allow their proxies to fill the vacuum that our departure creates. This will inevitably increase the terrorist threat to the United States, destabilize our partners, and reduce our influence in the region.
“I urge President Trump to further consult with U.S. military leaders and our partners on the ground before making any more impulsive moves that could cause long-term damage to our national security.”