Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) was sharply critical of the Trump administration’s handling Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria during a press conference with reporters Wednesday afternoon, questioning why the president did not make “a clear agreement with Turkey as to what they would do, and what they would not do” before ordering a withdrawal of American troops from the region.
Sen. Romney on US troop withdrawal from northern Syria:
"Turkey let us know what they were going to do. This is not a surprise. Everybody told the administration what would happen … The reality is what's happening in Syria is a result of our decision." pic.twitter.com/8sy3yhFeDq
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 16, 2019
“This is not a surprise. Everybody told the administration what would happen if we pulled our troops out precipitously,” Romney said. “Instead, there should have been a negotiation beforehand, we should’ve sat down with Turkey and said, ‘Alright, look: We’re willing to talk to you about your concerns, let’s see if we can negotiate a program here where we protect the Kurds, where we can make sure the ISIS prisoners are kept in place, and where we honor our commitments to our friends the Kurds, as well as our alliance with you, Turkey.’”
“At this stage, it’s trying to cover ourselves as well as we can and look like we’re being tough and we’re putting sanctions on Turkey and so forth, but the reality is the decision was made by this administration which has led to the Turks going into Syria and wiping out our friends, the Kurds. That’s what’s unacceptable,” Romney added.
The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism went on to say that neither he nor the subcommittee’s ranking member, Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) were briefed on the decision to withdraw troops ahead of time, and to voice hope that the White House would provide the subcommittee a transparent explanation of the process that led to the move.
Romney and Murphy released a statement October 7 that called the Syria withdrawal “a betrayal that will have grave humanitarian and national security consequences.”
Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria entered its eighth day Wednesday, amid heavy fighting that has displaced over 130,000 people and attracted Russian and Syrian troops to the region.
Romney’s comments marked the latest twist in an often-testy relationship with Trump that has publicly soured amid disagreements over the House’s impeachment inquiry and the Syria withdrawal. On Wednesday, the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group, released a 30-second ad which paints Romney as a “Democrat secret asset” who is “plotting to take down President Trump with impeachment.”