BANGOR – Maine lawmakers in Washington and a former ambassador to Syria reacted Tuesday to President Trump’s announcement about withdrawing U.S. troops in Syria.
“It’s always concerning when the president makes an announcement at 11 p.m. and we find out in the morning that our military leaders were caught off guard, and are unaware,” said democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Maine’s Second Congressional District. “Communications with these very serious national security matters is critically important.”
President Trump announced his plans to pull U.S. troops away from Syria’s border with Turkey. There’s currently about 1,000 U.S. military personnel in Syria.
Sen. Angus King also said he was deeply concerned.
“It appears there would be virtually no consultation with the State Department, the Defense Department, the military commanders on the ground,” King said. “It took everyone by surprise. That’s a terrible way to be making life and death decisions.”
“Second: It’s morally reprehensible,” King said. “Basically, what we are doing is abandoning the Kurds who stood with us during the fight against ISIS. They were the point of the spear.”
Maine resident Rob Ford, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Syria between 2011 and 2014, has a much different opinion.
“I’m one of the rare people, I think, in the foreign policy establishment that thinks the president basically has made the right decision,” Ford said. “The way it was announced and the way it was not coordinated inside the U.S. administration, the State Department and the Defense Department – that wasn’t so good.”
Ford said he believes it’s time for regional leaders to take over.
“Slowly removing American forces out of the combat in Syria, I think, is the right one,” said the retired ambassador, who has a condo in Bangor and home on Moosehead Lake. “And little by little, turning it over more to countries in the region, I think that’s the right way to go.”
King and Golden strongly disagree.
“I fought in Iraq right up on the Syrian border and I’m familiar with the Kurds and our long history of working with them,” Golden said. “The president has made claims that ISIS is no longer a threat in the region. His own generals don’t agree with that analysis. That’s not the case.”
He added later, that ISIS remains “a terrorist organization that is a threat to the United States.”
“I think Congress is going to try and undo it in some way in order to at lease impress upon the Turks to not come across the border but whether we’ll be successful after the president has in effect opened the gate, I don’t know,” King said. “This isn’t America first. This is America alone and it’s bad for this country.”