Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) defended President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, saying that the Kurds would be better off aligned with Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

“The Kurds are going to better aligned with Assad because they frankly need a Syrian sponsor,” Paul, told Hill.TV during an interview that aired on Thursday.

Paul, seen as an outsider among Republicans on foreign policy, has been a staunch defender of Trump’s decision to pullout from Syria.

Paul said the U.S. never intended to stay in Syria in the first place.

“We were never staying there — the president never promised to stay there, he said we’re going to wipe out ISIS, we did,” he said.

Trump’s decision to pull troops out of northern Syria earlier this month has garnered criticism from even his most loyal allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who have both called the decision a mistake. 

But Trump has stood by his decision, saying he was bringing U.S. troops home from endless wars.

“Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers and fighting other people’s wars. I want to get out of the Middle East,” Trump said at a joint press conference with the Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday.

The House, meanwhile, overwhelming passed a resolution on Wednesday rebuking Trump’s decision and calling on Turkey to stop military action.

Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops opened the door for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to begin an invasion in Syria targeting U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, who are considered a key partner in the fight against ISIS. Ankara though considers the Kurdish forces to be a terrorist group because of their ties to a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Trump later imposed economic sanctions on Turkey over the move and Congress is moving to impose additional sanctions.

Abandoned by U.S. troops, the Kurds have since struck a deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to deploy Syrian troops near the border to deter Turkey’s incursion, marking a major shift in the country’s ongoing civil war. 

Despite the escalation, Paul maintained that there is still hope for the Kurds, suggesting that Erdoğan and Assad could reach a deal that would give them some autonomy.

“There is a chance that Assad and Erdoğan — if Assad will guarantee his side of the border — that there could be a retreat of Turkey back within its borders and you actually could maybe set up something where the Kurds actually get some provincial or semi-autonomous control,” he told Hill.TV.

—Tess Bonn

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