Administration to give ‘top secret’ briefing on Syria amid pushback

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The Trump administration is briefing congressional staff Tuesday regarding the announced pull back of U.S. troops in northern Syria, two sources told The Hill. 

A congressional source confirmed that Senate staff will get a “top-secret level” briefing about the situation in northeast Syria. Katie Wheelbarger, acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security affairs, will take the lead on briefing staffers. 

{mosads}A Democratic aide added that House staff will be briefed separately on Tuesday.

The back-to-back briefings come as President Trump is facing fierce backlash on Capitol Hill over his decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of an expected military operation by Turkey. 

The decision, announced on Sunday night, appeared to catch lawmakers, including members of leadership and Trump allies, off guard. Republicans have panned it as a “catastrophic idea,” a “disaster in the making” and a “grave mistake.” 

Both Republicans and Democrats have warned that the move will bolster ISIS and put the lives of Kurdish allies in the region at risk.

Trump has defended the decision despite the pushback, arguing that it’s time to end U.S. involvement in “ridiculous endless wars.” 

“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

Turkish officials told Reuters on Tuesday that their military on Monday night bombed the Syria-Iraq border to prevent the Kurds from using the transit route to fortify their positions in the area. A security official said the intention was to cut off the road “before the operation in Syria.”

“In this way, the group’s transit to Syria and support lines, including ammunition, are shut off,” the official said. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled on Monday that he thinks Trump should back down from the decision and warned him against making a “precipitous withdrawal.”

“I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” McConnell said in a statement.

The closed-door briefings come as Congress is in the middle of a two-week recess. 

Senators are already clamoring for the administration to come and testify about the decision. 

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said in a joint statement Monday that administration officials must come before the Foreign Relations Committee to discuss the withdrawal.

“The Administration must come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests,” Murphy and Romney said.

—Rebecca Kheel contributed.

Tags Chris Murphy Donald Trump Kurdish fighters Kurdish forces Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Syria Turkey

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