GOP lawmaker: Thinking of leaving Syria 'a mistake'

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday that President Donald Trump's prior announc...

Posted: Apr 9, 2018 4:14 PM
Updated: Apr 9, 2018 4:14 PM

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Monday that President Donald Trump's prior announcement that the US will leave Syria was a "mistake."

"I think the notion that we would leave Syria was a mistake because we haven't finished destroying ISIS and because people like Iran and Russia see a vacuum created when the US leaves into which they will run," Texas GOP Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry said on CNN's "Newsroom" on Monday.

Thornberry made his comments after Trump warned via Twitter on Sunday that there would be a "big price" to pay following reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. Trump's statement came after he recently announced the US would be exiting Syria, although a top general said later that Trump had imposed no timeline for withdrawal as the campaign against ISIS continues.

Sunday's announcement was almost a year to the day that Trump authorized a missile strike against one of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's air fields following another alleged chemical attack.

Thornberry said the administration "ought to consider doing something similar this time with our allies because we cannot allow this sort of behavior to continue" but acknowledged that another strike would not guarantee no further chemical attacks, especially given Russian President Vladimir Putin's support for Assad.

"I cannot promise you that another missile attack will prevent Assad from carrying out atrocities, especially with Putin standing there propping him up," Thornberry said, also offering support for approaching the United Nations on the issue.

Thornberry's comments against an announcement of a US withdrawal from Syria echoed a statement from Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, who said Sunday that Trump's announcement about leaving Syria had "emboldened" Assad.

Thornberry said the US needed to continue its military effort in Syria not only to fight ISIS but to avoid ceding space to Russia and Iran as well as avoiding a larger regional conflict.

"We don't need to fix Syria; that's beyond our capability," Thornberry said. "But we need to be there with enough presence to try to keep the lid on, or else we could get drawn into a wider conflict."

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