Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds

Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan pair of senators is pressing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE to develop a strategy for protecting Kurdish forces once the U.S. military withdraws from Syria.

Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift defends staying out of the 2016 election: 'I just knew I wasn't going to help' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Senate passes sweeping budget deal, sending it to Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) and Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador Senate committee advances nomination of general accused of sexual assault Overnight Defense: General accused of sexual assault to get confirmation hearing | Senate to vote Monday on overriding Saudi arms deal veto | Next Joint Chiefs chair confirmed | Graham tries to ease Turkey tensions MORE (D-Ill.) sent a letter to Trump on Thursday urging him to prevent armed conflict between Kurdish forces and Turkey.

“Abandoning friends and doing nothing to prevent their slaughter would undermine the global coalition to defeat ISIS and jeopardize our nation's honor,” the senators wrote.

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Nashville, in Blackburn's home state of Tennessee, has the largest Kurdish-American population in the U.S.

The fate of Kurdish forces in Syria has been one of the top concerns for lawmakers and others opposed to Trump’s plan to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

The Senate is set to vote Thursday on an amendment urging Trump to reconsider a “precipitous” withdrawal in Syria, as well as Afghanistan.

The United States considers Kurdish forces the most effective local ground force fighting ISIS in Syria and has backed them throughout the campaign against the terrorist group.

Ankara, though, considers them terrorists connected to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey and has threatened to attack when U.S. forces leave Syria.

In their letter, Blackburn and Duckworth said a strategy during and after withdrawal from Syria requires “guarding against armed conflict” between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

The United States, they said, must “use every diplomatic tool” to ensure Turkey settles its issues with the Kurds peacefully.

“Defending allies and partners is in our national interest. ISIS threatens global stability and nation-states throughout the world,” they wrote. “If the United States is to avoid endless deployments of ground forces throughout the world, we must continually cultivate reliable partners in the region who are willing - and able - to effectively take the fight to our common enemy on the ground.”

Kurdish Leader Ilham Ahmed was in Washington this week. She reportedly met with Trump at the Trump International Hotel on Monday; she was dining with congressional leaders and he was at the hotel for a political fundraiser.

Trump reportedly told Ahmed “I love the Kurds” and assured her he would not leave the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey.