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Lindsey Graham addresses Trump: "I will hold you accountable" over treatment of Kurdish allies

Graham to Trump: "I will hold you accountable"

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the leading critics of President Trump's drawdown of U.S. troops from Syria, has a message for Mr. Trump, which he delivered from the Senate Thursday. 

"If you continue on the course you're on, you will have brought a lot of damage to the nation, you'll abandon a valuable ally, set in motion the re-emergence of ISIS, and Mr. President, as much as I like you and want to work with you, I am going to be consistent," he said, quietly adding, "I will hold you accountable."

The South Carolina senator stood alongside senators of both parties, including Chris Van Hollen, Marsha Blackburn and Jeanne Shaheen, and introduced legislation that would impose further sanctions on Turkey over its invasion into northern Syria. The sanctions would target top Turkish officials and take a "deep dive" into the Turkish president's own finances. Congress would also restrict visa access to Turkey.

Graham predicted the sanctions would pass Congress with a veto-proof bipartisan majority, though he said he "would hope that President Trump would welcome" the measure.

And he called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to withdraw from northern Syria, to positions held by Turkish forces before its invasion. 

After the U.S. removed troops from key outposts in early October, Turkey invaded northern Syria, threatening U.S. Kurdish allies who were instrumental in fighting ISIS. Graham, like many Republicans, sees the president's actions as a betrayal of those allies that will have damaging repercussions for the U.S. in other arenas, too. 

The Trump administration announced Monday that three Turkish ministers, the Turkish defense department and energy ministry would face sanctions. Mr. Trump also raised steel tariffs and immediately canceled negotiations over a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey.

Mr. Trump declared Wednesday that the U.S. has no stake in defending Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America's partners against ISIS extremists. He also welcomed the rise of Russian influence in northern Syria, and said, "Syria may have some help with Russia, and that's fine," arguing that the conflict is a regional dispute. "They've got a lot of sand over there. So, there's a lot of sand that they can play with." He added, "Let them fight their own wars."

While Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are in Ankara trying to push for a ceasefire in northern Syria, there is active fighting on the battlefield, CBS News' Charlie D'Agata reported Thursday.

Turkish howitzers have been opening up on targets inside the so-called "safe zone" while Turkish-backed forces wage running gunbattles on the ground against Kurdish forces, according to D'Agata.

Russian and Syrian regime forces were pushing into the city of Kobani, a key city with tremendous significance for the Kurds, who by the hour were surrendering any hope of holding on to the semi-autonomous region they fought years to try to establish.
 
U.S. military officials told CBS News that F-15 fighter jets launched airstrikes outside Kobani to destroy ammunition left behind at a cement factory by retreating U.S. troops. U.S. Army Colonel Myles Caggins said the strikes were pre-planned, and that all coalition personnel and "essential tactical equipment" had been removed before the strike.
 
Until last week, that factory was a vital combat outpost for U.S. forces and their Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS.
 
The Kurds are now calling for a corridor to evacuate dead and wounded civilians from Ras al Ain, which has seen some of the worst of the fighting, urging both the United States and Russia to intervene to help evacuate civilians trapped in the fighting.  

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