U.S. leaving Kurds "to the wolves" with "weak" Syria withdrawal, Kinzinger says

GOP rep slams Trump's "weak" retreat from Syria

Republican Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and current lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, continued his forceful condemnation of President Trump's abrupt and controversial decision to withdraw the U.S. troops stationed in northern Syria tasked with preventing fighting between Turkey and U.S.-allied Kurdish groups.

"The Kurds found out on Twitter, for goodness sakes. We have left them to the wolves," Kinzinger said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "The message this is sending to our allies around the world I think is really going to be bad."

Mr. Trump's announcement to withdraw the small U.S. peacekeeping force in northern Syria after a call with Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week fueled a flurry of bipartisan outcry in Congress, with even typically staunch allies like Senator Lindsey Graham urging him to reverse course. Democrats and Republican alike warned Mr. Trump that an American draw-down from the region would effectively sanction a Turkish slaughter of Kurdish groups, which were instrumental in U.S. efforts to eradicate ISIS. 

Those concerns became a reality soon after Mr. Trump's announcement, with the Turkish military and allied Arab forces launching an incursion into northern Syria and quickly overrunning smaller Kurdish forces. Reports have already emerged of possible atrocities committed by Turkish-backed militias and ISIS militants escaping prisons.  

Earlier on "Face the Nation," Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the president had ordered him to implement a "deliberate withdrawal" of approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria, not just the initial small peacekeeping force. Esper also revealed that the Kurdish groups once allied with the U.S. were now seeking help from Russia and forces loyal to the regime of Bashar al-Assad to counter the Turkish-led invasion. 

Kinzinger said the president's decision to effectively give Erdoğan a "green light" to occupy Kurdish-controlled territory could not only lead to a resurgence of ISIS in the region, but also erode trust in the U.S. abroad. 

"As a guy that served in the military and really got into politics because I believe in the role America plays, to see this yet again, you know, leaving an ally behind, abandoning people that we frankly told that we were going to be with is disheartening, depressing," he said. 

Democrats and Republicans in Congress have vowed to hit Turkey with economic sanctions if it continues its invasion, a move the president seemed to rally behind in recent days. Although he said lawmakers are not "powerless" in this situation, Kinzinger suggested Mr. Trump has vast authority as commander-in-chief. 

"The president's got a lot of power that's in the Constitution," he said. 

  • Camilo Montoya-Galvez
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    Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics. Twitter: @camiloreports