WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWNY) - Elise Stefanik and other members of Congress are calling the Trump Administration's decision to not oppose a Turkish incursion into Syria "a misguided and catastrophic blow to our national security interests."
The Republican north country Congresswoman is joining Democratic colleagues -- members of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence committees -- in criticizing the administration's decision to move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault into territory held by Kurdish forces that helped the U.S. in the battle against ISIS.
A joint statement says the Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces have been “our primary partner on the ground in the fight against ISIS, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. forces.”
The same forces are guarding around 11,000 ISIS fighters captured in the conflict.
"The bottom line is that these Kurdish soldiers are the first line of defense in maintaining the gains we have made against ISIS; if Turkey attacks these Kurdish soldiers, there is a grave risk that the ISIS fighters they guard will escape and return to the battlefield."
Stefanik and Congress members Jason Crown of Colorado, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, and Andy Kim of New Jersey returned Monday morning from a trip to Turkey, Afghanistan, and the Syrian-Jordanian border.
While overseas, they met with government leaders and U.S. security, intelligence, and diplomatic officials, who they say told them "of the danger posed to the U.S. and our allies if Turkish forces moved into northern Syria."
Turkey has a large population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom it regards as terrorists, and views the Kurdish forces in nearby Syria as a threat.
“The Administration’s announcement regarding Syria is a misguided and catastrophic blow to our national security interests,” the lawmakers said. “Not only will this decision further destabilize the region, it will make it more difficult for the United States to recruit allies and partners to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS.”