In the wake of President Trump's new Syria policy which drew back a significant number of U.S. troops in northern Syria and widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, the White House attempted to save face by helping broker a ceasefire deal with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who pledged to halt his invasion of northern Syria for five days to afford Kurdish fighters the opportunity to abandon territory reclaimed during the fight against ISIS.
But critics say the agreement was lopsided, forcing the once U.S.-allied Kurds out of their homes, while allowing Turkey to occupy new territory and avoid U.S. sanctions. The threat posed by ISIS, Russia and the Assad regime also present a troubling future for Kurdish forces without U.S. backing.
Here's the big takeaways from Sunday's episode of "Face the Nation" with Margaret Brennan
Ex-special ops chief says Syria drawdown offers "great opportunity" to ISIS:
- Recently retired four-star General Raymond "Tony" Thomas, who led the United States Special Operations Command for three years, said the conditions created by the recent American withdrawal in Syria could pave the way for a resurgence of ISIS.
- What Gen. Thomas said: "I think they'll have a great opportunity to do that, because you've got all the precursors that existed before the Assad regime. Representative government, or not, in Iraq," Thomas . "So there'll be a void, and I think they will rally. These are resilient adversaries. We've done nothing to knock down the ideology, and I think they'll see this is certainly a respite if not an opportunity to have a resurgence."
- Why that matters: The president's claims that the caliphate has been "destroyed" may no longer hold as Syria now presents a serious vulnerability to ISIS strongholds.
House Republican calls into question Trump's Syria policy:
- Texas Representative Will Hurd, a member of the Intelligence Committee, expressed concern about the White House-brokered temporary ceasefire in northern Syria, saying it resembles a surrender to the Turkish government and U.S. adversaries entangled in the country's protracted civil war.
- What Hurd said: "I still haven't seen all the details but what I'm learning, it looks more like terms of surrender than a peace deal," Hurd . "And unfortunately, our enemies and our adversaries — like Iran, Russia, Turkey — they're playing chess and unfortunately, this administration is playing checkers."
- Why that matters: A growing chorus of Republicans are putting party aside to call out President Trump for his foreign policy strategy. Republican hardliners and more moderates like Hurd are now not shying away against parting with the White House when it matters most.
Top House Democrat eyes new timeline for close of impeachment probe:
- Connecticut Representative Jim Himes, one of the top Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, said he and his colleagues could likely conclude their impeachment inquiry into President Trump by the end of year
- What Himes said: "My belief is that the speaker of the House would like to get this wrapped up by the end of the year. I think that's probably possible,"
- He later suggested that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was at the "center" of the impeachment probe, but that his panel could likely proceed without his testimony as the White House continues to exert executive privilege in keeping key players from testifying before Congress.
- Why that matters: The updated timeline now sets the stage for a dramatic constitutional clash just months before the 2020 presidential election.
Experts say Russia, ISIS could benefit from Syria onslaught:
- Former acting director of the CIA and CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morrell explained that Kurdish forces were fighting ISIS and gathering intelligence for the U.S while in Syria, an asset he now fears could be at risk of loss, all at the benefit of Russia and ISIS.
- What Morell said: "ISIS benefits. The Russians benefit because they're going to be the ones getting that intelligence now. The Syrian regime is going to benefit. But the biggest winner here is ISIS."
- Former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns echoed his concerns over the U.S-Syria pullout: "There was a smart way and a dumb way" to approach Syria. "I think we chose the dumb way," he told Margaret Brennan, adding that the United States effectively gave away its leverage in the fight.
- Why that matters: With major adversaries gaining access to U.S. intelligence in the region, the ball is now in their court with regards to escalating the fight. And as a result of the Turkey ceasefire, the U.S. has effectively thrown the Kurdish forces under the bus and given President Erdogan exactly what he wanted.