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Sen. Martha McSally joins GOP protest of Trump’s plans for Syria

Sen. Martha McSally talks to reporters in Peoria on Monday, Oct. 7. (KTAR News Photo/Peter Samore)

PHOENIX – Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona joined a growing chorus of Republicans expressing disapproval of President Donald Trump’s plan to pull back U.S. forces from part of Syria where Turkey has threatened to invade.

“I just will tell you that I’m very concerned about this decision, and I joined a number of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to communicate that I really think that this is not the message to send to those who are willing to partner with us to fight against terrorism around the globe,” McSally told reporters Monday afternoon following an event in Peoria.

The White House said Sunday that troops in northeast Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault, a move that some say is abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the yearslong battle to defeat Islamic State militants.

“I’m deeply concerned about this,” McSally, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said. “I’ve been deployed to this region six times.

“I understand the intent that we want to bring our men and women home, but these are our allies. These are the people who stood up and fought against ISIS in order to roll them back.”

Trump’s surprise move, which came with no advance warning and stunned many in his own government, threatened to undermine what has been near lockstep support among Republicans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been among Trump’s most vocal defenders, called the Syria decision “a disaster in the making” that would throw the region into chaos and embolden the Islamic State group.

“I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is,” Graham told Fox News. “I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted that Trump’s shift on Syria is “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”

For a day, at least, the intraparty clash dominated the political conversation, overshadowing the president’s near-constant campaign to undermine the Democrats’ impeachment investigation.

Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s hand-picked ambassador to the United Nations, cast the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Iraq as a betrayal of a key ally.

“The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake,” she wrote on Twitter.

On Fox News, a network where many rank-and-file Trump supporters get their news, host Brian Kilmeade said it was “a disaster.”

“Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?” Kilmeade said on “Fox & Friends.”

A more frequent Republican Trump critic, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, cast Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal”: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”

Trump defended his decision among a stream of more than a dozen social media posts Monday, downplaying the risk of a potential Turkish attack on the Kurds.

“If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” Trump wrote. He added: “The endless and ridiculous wars are ENDING! We will be focused on the big picture, knowing we can always go back & BLAST!”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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