AUGUSTA — Members of Maine’s congressional delegation denounced the Trump administration’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from areas along the Syrian-Turkish border on Monday, warning that the move could harm important Kurdish allies and threaten U.S. national security.

The Trump administration’s decision was roundly criticized by Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Many of those critics – including members of Maine’s congressional delegation – expressed particular concerns about the fate of Kurdish troops that have been valuable U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State but that Turkey regards as terrorists.

Sen. Angus King, an independent, called the withdrawal “a harmful mistake” that could endanger Kurdish troops while undermining this country’s credibility with other allies. He called on Trump to immediately revisit the decision.

“The world must know America will stand with those who fight valiantly alongside us; if our word is not our bond, our ability to attract allies and partners in the future will be seriously compromised,” King, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “The decision to leave our Kurdish partners at the mercy of the Turks is a moral and strategic mistake that undermines America’s trustworthiness in the eyes of the global community and makes it far less likely that we will be able to enlist allies and partners in future conflicts important to our national security. If this is the way we treat those who gave up their lives in our fight against ISIS, who will heed our call the next time we need help and support? This is not America First – it is America Alone. “

Republican Sen. Susan Collins called the move “terribly unwise.”

“This is a terribly unwise decision by the president to abandon our Kurdish allies, who have been our major partner in the fight against the Islamic State,” Collins, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said in a statement.


Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, portrayed the decision as another impulsive and uninformed move by the Trump administration.

“President Trump’s impulsive decision to remove troops from northern Syria is a reckless reversal of American foreign policy,” Pingree said in a statement. “Without consulting military leaders, he has advanced the interests of Russia, Iran, and Turkey’s strongman president, not the United States. This is yet another instance where the president has jeopardized relationships with our allies around the world and intensified an already volatile situation.”

Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, also questioned the wisdom of the administration’s decision.

“The situation in Syria is complex, but this much is clear: the president’s decision to abandon one of our critical allies via a middle-of-the-night press release is misguided and may only further destabilize an already volatile region,” Golden said in an emailed statement.

The U.S. troop withdrawal began early Monday hours after the White House announced it would not intervene in a Turkish offensive in areas of northern Syria that are controlled by Syrian Kurds. That was a dramatic shift from the previous policy of trying to prevent large-scale clashes between these two important U.S. allies in the region.

Last December, King had joined five senators, including four Republicans, in a letter that urged the Trump administration not to follow through on its proposal to withdraw troops from Syria. King and the other signees – Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Marco Rubio of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas; and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire – said such a move could embolden ISIS and Syrian President Bashal al Assad


“The withdrawal of American presence from Syria also bolsters two other adversaries to the United States, Iran and Russia,” the letter states. “As you are aware, both Iran and Russia have used the Syrian conflict as a stage to magnify their influence in the region.

“Any sign of weakness perceived by Iran or Russia will only result in their increased presence in the region and a decrease in the trust of our partners and allies. Your administration must not repeat the same mistakes that previous administrations have made and concede to these bad actors.”



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