Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D.-Calif., aren’t buying the Turkish cease-fire announcement from Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pelosi and Schumer released a statement Thursday saying President Trump is “flailing” in light of his decision to reverse sanctions against Turkey in exchange for a “sham” cease-fire. They asserted this would undermine American credibility and send a “dangerous message” to both allies and adversaries that America’s word is not to be trusted.
Pence and Pompeo announced Thursday that they had negotiated a brief cease-fire with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose nation has stormed into northeast Syria following a decision by President Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from the region. Critics say the president has left Kurds in the region, who had worked with the U.S. to battle Islamic Sytate forces there, vulnerable to the Turkish incursion.
During the cease-fire period, Kurdish-led forces are to pull out of a roughly 20-mile safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border. Under the terms of the deal, Turkey’s military operation in Syria targeting Kurdish U.S. allies will dissipate should the Kurds comply with the evacuation.
“President Erdogan has given up nothing, and President Trump has given him everything. The Turks have stated that ‘this is not a cease-fire,’ and made clear that they ‘will pause the operation for 120 hours in order for the terrorists to leave’ – referring to the courageous Kurdish fighters who have suffered nearly 11,000 casualties in our fight to defeat ISIS,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote.
Turkey views the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years. Turkey launched an attack in northern Syria because it wants Kurdish soldiers out of the border safe zone. Turkey also wants to resettle Syrian refugees living in Turkey in the safe zone.
“This agreement also does nothing to stop thousands of ISIS prisoners from escaping and shows the president’s complete lack of strategy to defeat ISIS. To say that Turkey and Syria will guard the prisoners is outrageous and puts our homeland security at risk,” the statement continued.
On Sunday the Kurds announced that hundreds of ISIS supporters had escaped a camp as Turkish forces approached. The detainees apparently attacked the camp’s guards and fled, the Kurdish-led administration said. President Trump reportedly told Democrats in a meeting Wednesday that fewer than 100 ISIS prisoners had escaped as a result of the U.S. pullback and they were the “least dangerous” ones.
“The only beneficiaries of the President’s policies are our adversaries: ISIS, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Iran. Today’s decision further makes the argument that President Trump doesn’t see Putin as the danger he is to our country,” Pelosi and Schumer continued. News broke Tuesday that Russian military units had deployed to patrol the Turkey-Syria border, sparking fears that Moscow is moving to fill a security vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal.
“Next week, the House will pass a strong, bipartisan sanctions package to work to reverse the humanitarian disaster that President Trump unleashed in Syria. Our service members, our allies and our partners all suffering from the Syrian conflict deserve smart, strong and sane leadership from Washington,” the Dem lawmakers’ statement concluded. The sanctions package will follow a bipartisan 354-60 House vote Wednesday to condemn the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria and demand a clear strategy to defeat ISIS.