Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, Rep. Justin Amash (I-Grand Rapids) has been a loud critic of Trump and his administration. As a Republican and now as an Independent, the objections from Michigan’s 3rd district representative have only intensified.
As of late, Amash has been vocal on Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the Syria-Turkey border. Speaking on Meet the Press Sunday morning, the congressman discussed his position on the topic.
“I don’t think we should have been in Syria without Congressional approval. We never had congressional approval for the mission,” Amash told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I think the president should have withdrawn troops long ago.”
Trump justified his decision to move about 1,000 U.S. troops out of northern Syria, saying he was fulfilling a campaign promise to get out of “endless wars.” Seemingly, on that point, Amash and the president agree: American troops should get out of the Middle East. However, that’s where the similarity ends.
“When you withdraw troops, you have to plan ahead of time how to handle it. He could have prepared in advance for the obvious consequences,” said Amash.
The impact of moving U.S. forces was almost immediate. Within days, Turkey invaded Syria and launched a military attack on Kurdish forces, a Syrian militia that has been a longtime ally of the United States. Because of that attack, the Kurds were unable to maintain prisons housing supporters of ISIS; hundreds evaded guards and escaped.
“He certainly knew what Turkey would do,” Amash said about Trump. The president spoke on the phone with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shortly before announcing the withdrawal of American troops.
Despite Amash’s strong criticism of pulling forces, the congressman did not vote to approve a condemnation of the White House’s move. Rather, he voted present. The House overwhelmingly supported the bill, voting 225-129 with three present roll calls.
For Amash, the issue is not black and white, yea or nay. At the crux of the personal conflict, Amash thinks American troops should have never been in Syria to begin with, but he also disagrees with the sudden withdrawal from the region.
Amash explained his vote on Twitter, saying it was a false dichotomy between having a U.S. presence in Syria and removing troops completely.
“The only alternatives in Syria are not perpetual U.S. presence or the current disaster. Our troops should have come home long ago,” he said. “Today’s joint resolution presented precisely the false choice above. That’s why I voted present. Americans don’t want perpetual war, and Congress should vote on war if they believe in it. Nonetheless, we need much better leadership in the White House. President Trump is reckless.”
Since the White House announced its decision on Syria two weeks ago, Amash has tweeted about it 12 times. The biggest sticking point is that Trump campaigned on bringing troops home, but Amash says the president has done little to accomplish that goal.
“It’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East,” Amash said on Meet the Press. “He’s moving troops back into Iraq. He’s moving other troops into Saudi Arabia and he’s using our forces almost as mercenaries—paid mercenaries—who are going to go in and as long as Saudi Arabia pays us some money it’s good to go.”
Sunday, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the American troops who were moved out of Syria will go to western Iraq. The White House has also been funneling additional troops into Saudi Arabia for months, as tensions escalate with Iran.
When Trump’s top aide Mick Mulvaney was asked about the troops not coming home, he said “Well, they will eventually.”
But for Amash, that doesn’t cut it.
“Frankly, we’ve been in the Middle East for way too long. We’ve been in Afghanistan for obviously way too long. And we should bring people home.”
Amash is the son of Arab Christian immigrants from Palestine and Syria.
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