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Only 150 Troops Involved, but Stakes Are Much Bigger

Trump defends a Syrian withdrawal, while critics warn of the dangers
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2019 10:55 AM CDT
In this Sunday photo, Turkish forces' artillery pieces are driven to their new positions near the border with Syria in Sanliurfa province, Turkey.   (DHA via AP)
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(Newser) – The US isn't withdrawing all of its troops from Syria, but it is withdrawing the 150 or so soldiers stationed at two posts near the Syrian border with Turkey. However, the small numbers involved belie the major foreign policy implications at stake. The move will allow Turkey to stage a military strike on Kurdish-led forces, notes Reuters, which labels the move a "major policy shift" by the US. In the complicated stew of the region, these Kurdish fighters have been allied with the US in the fight against ISIS, but another US ally, Turkey, views them as a terrorists. Coverage:

  • Trump defends: In a series of tweets Monday, President Trump defended pulling back the US troops. It "is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home," he wrote. "WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out."
  • The criticism: Lindsey Graham is among those blasting the president's move, not only on Twitter but in a phone call to Fox News Monday morning, notes USA Today. He and other critics say the US is abandoning the Kurds, which could send them into an alliance with Syria and Iran, lead to the resurgence of ISIS, and send a bad message to other US allies. The move has "undone all the gains we've made" and "thrown the region into further chaos," said Graham. He labeled it a "stain on America's honor," while fellow GOP Sen. Marco Rubio called it a "grave mistake."

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