Republican lawmakers on Monday panned President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish invasion, marking the latest break within the party over foreign policy.
The White House announced late Sunday that Ankara was moving forward with a long-threatened offensive in northeastern Syria and that U.S. troops would not be in the “immediate area” when it happens.
But Republicans are warning that the decision will bolster U.S. adversaries, including ISIS, and put the lives of Kurdish allies in the region at risk.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted the administration during an appearance on Fox News's "Fox & Friends," and in a tweet thread, calling it a "disaster in the making" and "shortsighted."
"I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary Pompeo. If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making," Graham tweeted.
Graham has emerged as a vocal ally of Trump's, but the two men have different foreign policy views. Trump ran in 2016 pledging to pull back U.S. involvement in the Middle East, while Graham is viewed as a longtime defense hawk.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled on Monday that he thinks Trump should back down from the decision and warned him against making a "precipitous withdrawal."
"I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners," McConnell said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who serves with Graham on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that pulling back troops in northern Syria would be a "grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria."
"It would confirm #Iran’s view of this administration & embolden then to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war," Rubio added.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also knocked Trump in the latest in a recent series of high-profile breaks with the president.
"The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster," Romney tweeted.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is up for reelection in 2020, added in a statement that it was a "terribly unwise decision by the President to abandon our Kurdish allies."
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) — who, like Collins, is up for reelection next year — urged Trump to reconsider the decision, which he characterized as a "retreat."
“He needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children. I hope the President will listen to his generals and reconsider. And before Turkey butchers innocent Kurds, Erdogan should carefully consider his privileged status as a NATO member. The American people don’t partner with genocidal regimes," Sasse said in a statement, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The senators were joined by several of their House colleagues, as well as former administration officials.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a member of House leadership who is weighing a Senate bid, called Trump's decision a "catastrophic mistake that puts our gains against ISIS at risk and threatens US security."
"This decision ignores lesson of 9/11. Terrorists thousands of miles away can and will use their safe-havens to launch attacks against America," she added in a tweet.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said Trump's move is a "misguided & catastrophic blow to our national security interests."
"Not only will this decision further destabilize the region, it will make it more difficult for the U.S. to recruit allies & partners to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS," she added.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said withdrawing U.S. troops from the area would "abandon our friends and give Russia & Iran exactly what they want. This is wrong."
And Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who sits on both the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees, also voiced his disapproval. "Strongly disagree with @POTUS Trump decision to allow Erdogan to invade Syria. Betrays Kurds, strengthens ISIS and endangers American homeland," King tweeted.
Meanwhile, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the Kurds "instrumental" against ISIS and said "leaving them to die is a big mistake."
Foreign policy has been a rolling point of contention between Trump and GOP allies on Capitol Hill.
Republicans forced through new Russia sanctions in 2017 despite reported opposition from the White House, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered an amendment earlier this year warning the administration against withdrawing troops for Syria or Afghanistan.
But his decision earned support from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is viewed as an outlier within the Senate GOP caucus when it comes to foreign policy.
"I stand with @realDonaldTrump today as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy," he tweeted.
Trump doubled down on Monday morning, saying it was time to end U.S. involvement in "ridiculous endless wars."
"The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted.
"WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” the president added.
Trump warned in a follow-up tweet that if Turkey does anything "off limits," the United States will "totally destroy and obliterate" its economy in an apparent reference to sanctions.
"As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)," Trump said.
Around 1,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in northeastern Syria, where they work closely with the Kurdish YPG, which leads the Syrian Democratic Forces in the region. The Kurds have proven to be among the U.S.'s most effective allies in the fight against ISIS.
Trump's decision was widely viewed as an endorsement of Turkey's planned military operation. Turkey, which views the Kurdish forces a terrorist insurgency, has long been frustrated with the U.S. alliance with the group.
With Congress in the middle of a two-week recess, it's unclear what, if anything, Republicans will be able to do to persuade Trump to change his mind, aside from waging a public and private pressure campaign.
The U.S. began pulling back troops from the Turkish-Syrian border early Monday, according to multiple reports.
Graham warned in a tweet that if Trump followed through with the plan to pull back U.S. troops that he would introduce a resolution to try to formally oppose him. A spokesman for Graham wasn't immediately able to share details of the resolution, but noted that it was being drafted.
"If this plan goes forward will introduce Senate resolution opposing and asking for reversal of this decision. Expect it will receive strong bipartisan support," he wrote.
Graham added during his Fox News interview that he would also try to slap new sanctions on Turkey if they move troops into Syria.
"I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view," he said. "This to me is just unnerving to its core."
Graham added that he would "do everything I can to sanction Turkey's military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria."