WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – On Monday, Sen. John Kennedy (R, Louisiana) and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R, North Dakota) spoke to Kurdistan 24 and affirmed their support for Kurdish political aspirations, along with their deep appreciation for the role of the Kurds in fighting the Islamic State.
Last Wednesday, Kennedy gave an impassioned speech explaining the importance and necessity of an amendment that he had proposed. Entitled the “Authorization for Use of Force to Defend the Kurds in Syria Resolution,” Kennedy’s amendment would have done just that. However, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sidelined it for an amendment of his own, which dealt with both Syria and Afghanistan, cautioning President Donald Trump against a precipitous withdrawal from either country.
“I think the President is going to withdraw from Syria,” Kennedy told Kurdistan 24. “I don’t know whether that’s the correct decision or not.” So “I’ve asked to have a briefing from our military and intelligence officials on the subject.”
Just last week, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, presented to Congress the intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2019. It portrayed the Islamic State as a serious threat, warning that it “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world.”
The Pentagon has a similar view. A Defense Department Inspector General’s report, released on Monday, warned that the Islamic State would portray a US withdrawal from Syria as a victory for itself, while it "remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria.”
Kennedy is a strong supporter of self-determination for the Kurds. “I think the Kurdish people deserve to determine their own destiny,” he said. “Our country was founded by people who thirsted for freedom,” and “I think the Kurdish people want the same thing that the original Americans wanted, and I think the Kurdish people deserve it.”
He also expressed his deep gratitude for the Kurdish role in fighting the Islamic State. “We would not have beaten back ISIS without the help of the Kurds.”
“Thank you for America,” he added. “Thank you for the world.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer serves on a key committee that is involved with Syria and the future of the Kurds: the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Cramer, too, has great sympathy and appreciation for the Kurds. “Nobody has put their necks out further for the United States in the region than the Kurdish people,” he affirmed. So we owe them “a great debt,” emphasizing that “we continue to reassure the Kurdish people that the United States stands with them.”
Confusion has surrounded US policy in eastern Syria since mid-December when Trump announced he was withdrawing US troops from the area. He originally envisaged the withdrawal occurring within 30 days, but that timeframe has been considerably relaxed.
In addition, Trump has been obliged to consider the impact on America’s Kurdish allies of the US withdrawal, above all not to leave them vulnerable to attack from Turkey.
Cramer seemed hopeful about the policy that will emerge.
“Our President is committed to ensuring strong political support for the Kurds in Syria,” Cramer said. “He’s not going to abandon the Kurdish people.”
“I’ve been pleased by recent reassurances by the administration that while the withdrawal is purposeful,” the Senator continued. “It’s also going to be orderly” and it will make sure “there are conditions on the ground that ensure our very good friends and allies are taken care of.”
Editing by Nadia Riva