Democratic presidential aspirants on Tuesday night took U.S. President Donald Trump to the cleaners over his controversial decision to withdraw American troops from the northeast region of Syria.
Appearing in a live television debate, the presidential hopefuls said the president’s decision had ruined America’s credibility and called to question the country’s leadership in the world.
The region, bordering Syria and Turkey, is controlled by the Kurds, whose fighters were crucial allies of the U.S. in its fight against the defeated Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.
Following the withdrawal, the Turkish government launched a military operation against the Kurds, whose elements it views as terrorists.
The move has drawn international criticisms, with the Kurds describing it as “stab in the back” by Trump after using them to defeat ISIS.
Responding to a question on whether Turkey should still be seen as a U.S. ally, one of the aspirants, Pete Buttigieg, described the decision as a betrayal of American allies and values.
Buttigieg said the pullout would pave way for a genocide and resurgence of ISIS, and quoted American soldiers as saying they were ashamed of what the president had done.
“When I was deployed as a soldier, one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word.
“Our allies knew it, and our enemies understood that. You take that away, you are taking away what makes America great, and it makes our troops and the world a much more dangerous place,’’ he said.
Vermont senator, Bennie Sanders, said 11,000 Kurds died and 20,000 others were wounded fighting ISIS, with the U.S. assuring it was with them.
“And then suddenly one day, after a phone call (between Trump and President Recep Erdoğan of Turkey), announced by tweet, Trump reversed that policy.
“Now you tell me, what country in the world would trust the word of the President of the United States?
“In other words, what he has done has wrecked our ability to do foreign policy, to do military policy, because nobody in the world would believe this pathological liar,’’ Sanders fired.
Sen. Kamala Harris from California said with the decision, Trump had basically given 10,000 ISIS fighters held by the Kurds “a get-out-of-jail free card’’.
“You know who the winner is in this? They are four: Russia, Iran, Assad and ISIS. This is a crisis of Donald Trump’s making, and it is on a long list of crises of his making,’’ she said.
For his part, Mr Julian Castro, a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said the best way for America to regain the trust of the world was to kick Trump out of office.
Castro said it was absurd that the president was caging immigrant children at U.S. borders and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free in northeast Syria.
He asked why President Kim Jong Un of North Korean President should believe anything Trump says to “contain his nuclear weapons programme, when he tore up the Iran nuclear agreement that we signed four years ago’’
Former Vice President Joe Biden described Trump as an “erratic, crazy president’’, who knew nothing about foreign policy, “and operates out of fear for his own reelection’’.
Biden warned that ISIS would bounce back and target the United States if Trump is reelected.