2020 Democrats Say President Trump ‘Sold Out the Kurds’ in Syria

2020 Democrats Say President Trump ‘Sold Out the Kurds’ in Syria

It was an unusual juxtaposition for Democrats — calling a Republican president weak militarily.

That’s how the contenders for the party’s nomination framed the recent withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria under President Trump, who they said during Tuesday night’s debate had created turmoil with his impulsive foreign policy decision making.

“It’s been the most shameful thing any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said.

While Democrats have been consumed with the Trump administration’s dealings with Russia and Ukraine, the emerging foreign policy crisis in Syria presented a delicate test for the party’s presidential hopefuls on the debate stage.

It followed Mr. Trump’s decision this month to withdraw American troops from northern Syria, one that has been sharply criticized by Republicans and now Democrats, who said it would endanger Kurdish allies in the region. Mr. Trump said he was trying to “end the endless wars.

Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the move a betrayal and said it would throw the country into chaos and embolden Islamic State militants. The issue appeared to give Mr. Biden an opening to burnish his foreign policy credentials and contrast himself with his main rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders.

“They lost their lives,” Mr. Biden said of the Kurds. “This is shameful.”

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan, admonished Mr. Trump over the withdrawal.

“What we were doing in Syria was keeping our word,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Part of what makes it possible for the United States to get people to put their lives on the line to back us up is the idea that we will back them up, too. When I was deployed, not just the Afghan national army forces but the janitors put their lives on the line just by working with U.S. forces. I would have a hard time today looking an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there.”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders both assailed Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal declaration, but both have long opposed American intervention in the conflict.

And then there is Representative Tulsi Gabbard, whom Senator Kamala Harris had called an apologist for Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. In 2017, Ms. Gabbard visited Mr. Assad, whose government used chemical weapons against rebels during a May 2018 attack in Syria’s civil war, the United States concluded.

Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reporting.

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