Jones Joins Critics Questioning Trump’s US Troop Pullout in Syria

Sen. Doug Jones spoke to students at Miles College on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Source: Robert Carter)

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones on Thursday joined a bipartisan group of senators who questioned President Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, leaving Kurdish forces vulnerable to attack by Turkey.

Jones, a Democrat who represents a state where 62% of the vote went for Trump in 2016, has taken a cautious approach to partisan issues as Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate election approaches. He defeated Republican Roy Moore in a bitter special election in 2017 and is seeking to win his first full term in the Senate next year.

He joined two bipartisan groups of senators Thursday in voicing concern about the administration’s action regarding Turkey. One group wrote a letter to Trump, and the other prepared legislation that would require the president to devise a strategy for dealing with the situation.

“There is strong bipartisan agreement that the President’s actions have put our national security at risk, opened the floodgates for ISIS to reemerge, and sent a clear and troubling message to our partners and allies around the globe,” Jones, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a written statement.

“The announcement today of a so-called ‘ceasefire’ does little to reassure them and does not address the urgent need for a strategy to combat ISIS. Our new legislation will require a comprehensive response to mitigate the damage done by this rapidly unraveling situation, starting with a plan to defeat ISIS, protect civilians, curb Russia’s increasing influence in the region.

Among those joining in criticism of Trump’s action were South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s strongest supporters in Congress; former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, R-Utah; and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Turkey’s military attacked the Kurdish troops in nearby northern Syria after Trump’s abrupt move to remove American forces from the area. U.S. troops had been working with the Kurdish personnel in the fight against ISIS.

Vice President Mike Pence announced in Ankara, Turkey, on Thursday that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to a five-day halt to his nation’s offensive in Syria to give Kurdish forces time to leave the area. Pence said that, in exchange, Trump will end sanctions he imposed on Turkey earlier this week and remove the threat of further sanctions.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said the problems in Turkey and Syria warrant a solution that prioritizes American leadership. “I believe the recent cease-fire is a good first step in achieving this goal,” he said

Risch and Graham said the ceasefire was a positive development, the Washington Post reported. But Risch said he would continue to work on legislation with Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, vice chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to address the situation.

Jones is part of the group pushing the legislation that would, among other things, require the Trump administration to come up with a comprehensive strategy to contain ISIS.

At the same time, Jones was among senators who sent the White House a letter urging a strategy that would promote stability in the region.

“We come to you in the sincerest bipartisan fashion because of our grave concerns about our national security and foreign policy,” the senators wrote. “We hope that you will urge Turkey to end their offensive and find a way to a peaceful resolution while supporting our Kurdish partners to ensure regional stability.”

Others signing the letter were Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona and Dan Sullivan of Alaska; Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia; and independent Angus King of Maine.

Despite the state’s Republican alignment, four of the state’s Republican representatives in the U.S. House, along with the state’s one Democrat in the House, also voted for a resolution that condemns Trump’s decision to remove troops from northern Syria. U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks and Bradley Byrne, both Republicans, were the only members of the state’s delegation who voted against the resolution, which passed Wednesday.