Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry says that there is a lot of concern overseas about Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on FNC’s ‘Sunday Morning Futures.’
BARTIROMO: What is the message to the Middle East after the president said he’s pulling troops out of Syria?
THORNBERRY: Well, there was a lot of concern in the Middle East. Partly because we have not completely finished eliminating ISIS, partly because the Kurds, who have been doing a lot of the fighting with us and for us have been our allies and if we pull the rug on them, everybody else is wondering if we’re going to pull the rug on others as well. And thirdly, it — it pretty much turns Syria over to Iran. And that’s more dangerous for Israel, it’s more dangerous for all the gulf states. So — so the initial announcement by the president caused a lot of concern.
Now, Ambassador Bolton this morning has walked back some of that initial concern but there’s still a lot of worry that if you let up the pressure on terrorist groups, whether they’re in Syria, Afghanistan or Yemen, they can spring back to life very quickly and threaten us here at home.
BARTIROMO: So is — is the administration, do you think, pushing back on this idea of total withdrawal, given the fact that you do have all of these concerns that it will take a very short amount of time for ISIS to regroup once the Americans walk away?
THORNBERRY: Yes. No, you’re exactly right. Ambassador Bolton this morning said that it’s going to be more conditions-based, that we’re just going to withdraw from part of the country, we’ll leave some folks in a key location that’s a supply line from Iran into Syria . So I think they’re still working through the details, trying to reassure folks. But I would be concerned about putting too much stock into promises from Turkey that they’re not going to attack the Kurds.
We know what Erdogan’s attitude towards them really is.
BARTIROMO: Well that’s exactly right. So, you know, you’ve got John Bolton out there saying well, we’re going to withdraw once this it’s — you know, this is conditional once we know for sure that Turkey is going to be there and we’re trusting Turkey now about this? I mean, what is it going to take for you to have trust that in fact it is OK to walk away?
THORNBERRY: I don’t know that I have that trust. And — and partly it’s because of Turkey and the Kurds, but in part, it’s because we saw what happened in 2011. Al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated, Obama pulled out of Iraq and they sprung back to life and occupied an enormous territory, became the most serious terrorist threat that the world has faced. So the number one lesson to me of the last 17 years is you’ve got to keep the pressure on. And if you relax that pressure, terrorists will spring back and threaten us here at home. We can’t — we can’t do that.
BARTIROMO: So was it a mistake to say we’re pulling out of Syria then?
THORNBERY: Yes. Yes. I think it was a mistake. It worried our allies, it encouraged our enemies and I think the administration now is trying to backtrack from a blanket withdrawal and trying to mitigate some of the adverse consequences.
BARTIROMO: Who are our allies in terms of making sure that the — the — the situation is safe, even as there is a real troop withdrawal plan in place? The mission may be the same, but the approach is clearly different.
THORNBERRY: Yes, it is. And different allies in the region have their own interests. I think the key lesson from what’s happened in Syria is that Americans don’t have to do the fighting, but we have to be there advising, sometimes having air support. That’s what has been so successful. And — and make no mistake, the last two years we have been very successful in beating back ISIS and I think the president deserves a lot of credit for that success because he took the shackles off of our military and they’ve done a lot of good work.
But that job will not be finished forever. We have to at least have some presence to keep the pressure on. …read more