McConnell: 'Gravely concerned' about Syria strategy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance 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: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Overnight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Official: Pentagon has started 'prudent planning' for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May 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 PelosiPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google 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.