Washington — Oklahoma’s senior senator and the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee broke ranks with President Donald Trump ’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said he is waiting for “further information,” but said he believes the U.S. priority should be to defeat ISIS.
“I agree that we cannot engage in unending conflict, but steps must be taken to prevent a security vacuum in northeastern Syria that would benefit terrorists, Putin and Iran, and harm our national security interests,” Inhofe said in a statement.
Inhofe was joined by two others from Oklahoma’s congressional delegation — U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Kendra Horn, D-Okla.
Inhofe said he already has spoken to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and is “looking forward to” continuing conversations with the president and Esper.
“I have long believed that our policy should reflect conditions on the ground,” Inhofe said. He also called for the U.S. to work with NATO ally Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Horn also expressed concern for Kurkish allies and said they have been one of the United States' closest partners against ISIS. Horn sits on the House Committee on Armed Services and is vice chair for the subcommittee on strategic forces.
“Abandoning our allies sends the message that the U.S. is an unpredictable and unreliable partner in the fight against terror, and it bolsters Russian efforts to destabilize the region,” said Horn in a press release.
She also said withdrawing will place both American and Kurkish troops in danger.
“This irresponsible action weakens our interests in the Middle East, and it will undermine American gains over the last five years in the fight against ISIS,” Horn said.
Cole, a senior member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, in a statement called Trump’s decision “a risky move.”
“This policy … will not only undo significant gains but may well invite aggression by other bad actors and terrorists,” Cole said in a statement.
Cole said pulling out from the region could cause high instability and leave allies — Kurkish fighters — alone in the fight to defeat ISIS in Syria.
“For the safety of our homeland and security of our allies, we must remain supportive of the Syrian Democratic Forces who have fought alongside us, rather than ceding ground to a dangerous enemy,” Cole said.
In the past, Inhofe has supported Trump’s decisions in Syria, including airstrikes in 2017. Trump said the Shayrat missile strike was in response to the chemical attacks on civilians shortly prior.
“It's something that he (Trump) had to do. He couldn't sit around and talk about it and go to the media, and go to everyone to see if everyone's going to be in agreement. Every one of the allies in the free world is supporting us," said Inhofe in 2017.
This past February, Inhofe released a press statement as chairman of the Armed Services Committee supporting the President’s decision to keep troops in Syria.
“President Trump’s decision to keep some troops in Syria ensures that any draw down reflects conditions on the ground. I commend his commitment to coordinate with Turkey to ensure stability in the region,” he said in February.
Cole and Inhofe are known as strong Trump supporters.
In a tweet, Trump held fast to his decision.
“We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds... Likewise our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and Trading partner, has been very good,” Trump tweeted.
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.