McConnell: Trump's troop pull back in Syria a 'grave strategic mistake'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Eighty-eight years of debt pieties Ernst says Trump should sign defense policy bill with military base renaming provision MORE (R-Ky.) on Friday ripped President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE's decision to pull back troops from northern Syria, urging the administration to reverse course.

"Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances. Sadly, the recently announced pullout risks repeating the Obama administration’s reckless withdrawal from Iraq," McConnell wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. 
 
McConnell added that the combination of the U.S. drawback and the fighting between Turkey, which invaded part of northern Syria, and the Kurds was creating a "strategic nightmare" for the United States. 
 
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McConnell's op-ed comes after Vice President Pence announced Thursday that the United States and Turkey had agreed to a five-day cease-fire, during which the United States won't apply additional sanctions on Turkish officials. 
 
If that holds, the cease-fire would then become permanent and the Trump administration would agree to lift sanctions that they introduced earlier this week. 
 
But McConnell, in the Post op-ed, argued that even if the cease-fire sticks, the pull back of U.S. troops and Turkey's invasion had "set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists."
 
"Unless halted, our retreat will invite the brutal Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers to expand their influence. And we are ignoring Russia’s efforts to leverage its increasingly dominant position in Syria to amass power and influence throughout the Middle East and beyond," he added. 
 
McConnell specifically pointed to reports of Russians filming themselves at abandoned U.S. bases within Syria calling it a "strategic calamity neatly captured in one Facebook post." 
 
Trump's decision to pull back U.S. troops, paving the way for Turkey's invasion, has sparked a fierce backlash from traditional GOP allies on Capitol Hill, who called it "catastrophic," a "grave mistake" and a "disaster in the making." 
 
McConnell has repeatedly raised red flags about Trump's decision. He told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday that he had told Trump privately, as well as publicly, that he disagreed with the decision. 
 
“I don't know how many times I need to say it and I think I'm speaking for most members of my conference that this was a mistake, and I hope it can be repaired,” McConnell said at the time.
 
Trump has defended his decision, saying it is "time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars."
 
But McConnell appeared to fire back at that on Friday, writing that "America’s wars will be 'endless' only if America refuses to win them." 
 
Lawmakers are weighing potential legislative responses to Trump's strategy.
 
The House passed a resolution this week that formally broke with the decision, and is expected to vote next week on sanctions legislation against Turkey.
 
McConnell hasn't yet said what, if any, legislation he will bring up for a vote on the Senate floor.  
 
The Senate previously approved an amendment earlier this year that warned the administration against pulling troops out of Syria or Afghanistan.
 
McConnell noted the bipartisan support for the amendment in his Post op-ed, but added that "unfortunately, the administration’s recent steps in Syria do not reflect these crucial lessons."