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Alaska senators condemn Trump administration’s U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria

Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, Aug. 4, 2016. (Loren Holmes / ADN file)

Joining other Republicans in Congress, both of Alaska’s senators are criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria’s northern border with Turkey.

The decision, announced late Sunday, has already started the withdrawal of a small contingent of forces, estimated at 50 to 100, participating in joint patrols under a U.S.-Turkish agreement to establish a safe zone on the Syrian side, according to the Washington Post.

Republican lawmakers are calling on the president to change course on a decision that allows Turkish forces to move into the area, abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the United States in the fight to defeat the Islamic State.

Murkowski urged the president to “reconsider this abrupt and unsettling decision” in a tweet Tuesday morning.

“Withdrawing from Syria in this way not only betrays our long-standing Kurdish allies but creates space for an ISIS resurgence,” she said. “We are already hearing disturbing reports from the region.”

The decision reportedly came after Trump spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has demanded U.S.-allied Syrian Kurds leave the area. Removal of troops at the border could open the door to expansion by Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s forces as well as Russian and Iranian allies into areas that Kurdish and U.S. forces have cleared of Islamic State fighters, the Post reported.

Sullivan issued statements on social media Monday calling the withdrawal “precipitous” and “an abandonment of our Kurdish allies (that) would make it harder in the future to attract partner forces to work with America."

He called the president’s decision one that "will likely lead to increased Iranian influence; expand the power vacuum likely to be filled by Russian and Iranian proxies; and would raise the likelihood that ISIS prisoners will be released or escape from detention.

Murkowski has developed a reputation for standing up to Trump at times, opposing his Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, voicing concerns about the president’s decision to declare a national emergency to secure funding for a border wall and for telling four minority congresswomen to “go back” to their countries.

It’s rare that Sullivan openly contradicts the president.

According to data compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight, Sullivan’s votes align with Trump’s positions 92% of the time while Murkowski lines up with Trump 74%. Alaska’s sole congressman, Rep. Don Young, aligns with the president 93% of the time.

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