Calling for US Troop Withdrawal, House Dems Demand 'Diplomatic, Political, and Humanitarian Strategy for Syria'

Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Ted Lieu of California, joined by 30 of their colleagues in Congress, sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday urging him “to present a long-overdue comprehensive diplomatic, political, and humanitarian strategy for Syria to Congress and the American people.”

“We strongly support the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, and at the same time recognize that such a decision nevertheless presents risks that can and must be mitigated through the implementation of a coherent and well-thought-out plan.”
—32 House Democrats

“While we believe there was never a military solution in Syria—nor Congressional authorization for the use of force—we are deeply concerned about the chaotic way in which the withdrawal plan has been rolled out,” the letter states, “including continuing confusion over the timeline for the withdrawal and your administration’s lack of a diplomatic strategy in Syria.”

Noting worries over hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton’s recent remarks that contradicted Trump’s stated desire to bring troops home, it continues, “We strongly support the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, and at the same time recognize that such a decision nevertheless presents risks that can and must be mitigated through the implementation of a coherent and well-thought-out plan.”

The letter—which was also sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan—asks the president for detailed responses to a list of questions about his policy goals and plans for Syria by Jan. 31. In addition to 32 House Democrats, letter is backed by the groups Peace Action, Win Without War, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

“Thankfully, these members of Congress are exercising their oversight authority on questions of war by requesting a comprehensive strategy from the administration,” said Paul Kawika Martin of Peace Action, welcoming calls for diplomatic and humanitarian strategies. “Americans need to know what guiding principles and strategies lay behind the administration’s haphazard approach to Syria, so that those principles and strategies can be laid bare and subjected to public debate.”

“We cannot cast a blind eye to the consequences of U.S. policies in Syria,” the letter emphasizes. “Prioritizing stabilization and reconstruction, as well as ensuring the access of humanitarian aid organizations to civilians, is vital to protecting the Syrian people and preventing a renewal of violence that could encourage the resurgence of extremist groups like ISIS.”

“Most immediately, the United States must use our leverage with Turkey to prevent further military incursions into Syrian territory, particularly those targeting Kurdish communities there,” it stresses. “The U.S. should also be working to revive and strengthen a U.N.-led peace process to secure a ceasefire that protects our partners and ultimately results in a negotiated solution to the Syrian war.”

Along with Lee and Lieu, the letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (N.J.), Peter A. DeFazio, (Ore.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Jared Huffman (Mo.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Anna Eshoo (Conn.), José Serrano (N.Y.), Mark DeSaulnier (Mass.), James McGovern (Mass.), Judy Chu (Calif.), Karen Bass (Calif.), Peter Welch (Mass.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.), Katie Hill (Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Chellie Pingree (Maine) Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Jerry McNerney (N.M.), Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.), and Raul Grijalva (Ariz.).

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