In the first Democratic debate since President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria, the 12 candidates on the stage in Westerville, Ohio, were united in painting the Republican president as reckless and a danger to American interests around the world -- a message that was pushed by candidates well after the debate.
(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS OF CALIFORNIA, SAYING:
"...not only has there been an abandonment of friends... not only that they will be then led to slaughter... he has given a get out of jail free card to at least ten thousands ISIS fighters, but, in addition, this whole scenario has also now empowered and actually been to the betterment of Russia, Iran, (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) Assad, and ISIS."
(SOUND BITE) (English) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BETO O'ROURKE OF TEXAS, SAYING:
"I want to make sure that we renew all those alliances and return to our friends and our allies... and change the course that Donald Trump has set us on, where instead he has embraced strong men and thugs, dictators around the world, and turned us back on our allies and our friends."
Trump has defended his reversal of longstanding U.S. policy in Syria as part of a plan to withdraw the U.S. from “endless” wars in the region. But critics, including senior figures in his own party, cast it as a betrayal of the Kurds, loyal allies who lost thousands of fighters in battle against Islamic State.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said if he was president he would have protected the Kurds, calling Trump's decision to withdraw troops “the most shameful thing that any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy.”
Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard - an Iraq war veteran who has defined her campaign around ending America’s overseas conflicts - said "Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011..."
That drew fire from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is also a veteran, said “The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it’s a consequence of a withdrawal and the betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.”