McConnell: 'Gravely concerned' about Syria strategy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRevs. Jesse Jackson, William Barber arrested in protest urging Manchin to nix filibuster On The Money: Biden announces bipartisan deal on infrastructure, but Democratic leaders hold out for more McConnell slams Biden for already 'caving' to left on infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday said that he is "gravely concerned" about the U.S. strategy in Syria and warned that the withdrawal of U.S. troops would create a "power vacuum" in the region.  

“I am gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far," McConnell said in a statement.


“Withdrawing American leadership from this pivotal region would not serve our nation’s short-, medium-, or long-term interests. It would only make a troubling situation much worse, not only for regional partners such as Israel and Jordan but for the United States as well," he continued. 

McConnell didn't directly mention President TrumpDonald Trump Pence said he's 'proud' Congress certified Biden's win on Jan. 6 Americans put the most trust in their doctor for COVID-19 information: poll OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden administration to evacuate Afghans who helped US l Serious differences remain between US and Iran on nuclear talks l US, Turkish officials meet to discuss security plans for Afghan airport MORE in his statement. But his comments came minutes before Trump, in a string of tweets, boasted about largely removing troops from Syria. 

"Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for thaeir own land," Trump added.

The two statements underscore the break between Trump and traditional GOP allies on Capitol Hill over the president's decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria. In the wake of the White House's announcement last week, Turkey invaded northern Syria and reports emerged over the weekend of some ISIS fighters escaping detention. 

"Turkey is our NATO ally and has legitimate security concerns stemming from the conflict in Syria. But Turkey’s offensive against our Syrian Kurdish partners is jeopardizing years of hard-won progress in the fight against ISIS," McConnell added on Monday.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military MORE announced Sunday that Trump had ordered the withdrawal of nearly all 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria. Previously, administration officials said about 50 troops would relocate from two outposts in northeast Syria.

Lawmakers are weighing how to respond to Trump's decision. A bipartisan group from the House and Senate have backed additional sanctions against Turkey, as well as a resolution opposing Trump's strategy. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Set millions of tires on fire, pay less than ,000 On The Money: Biden announces bipartisan deal on infrastructure, but Democratic leaders hold out for more Democrats seek to calm nervous left MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOn The Money: Biden announces bipartisan deal on infrastructure, but Democratic leaders hold out for more Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population MORE (R-S.C.) spoke on the phone earlier Monday about the need for the two pieces of legislation, but did not reach a deal on specific language. 

McConnell did not tip his hand during his statement about what he would support but noted that the Senate previously voted earlier this year warning Trump against pulling troops out of Syria. 

“I look forward to discussing what the United States can do to avoid a strategic calamity with my Senate colleagues and with senior administration officials when the Senate returns to Washington this week," McConnell said on Monday.