WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo led the defenders of President Donald Trump's handling of Turkey's incursion into Syria, saying Sunday that a cease-fire is holding and that U.S. goals in the Middle East are being met despite criticism that allies are being betrayed.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a recent sharp critic of Trump's Syria policy, also came around, saying the president was "thinking out of the box." Earlier in the month, Graham suggested Trump's withdrawal from northern Syria made him want to vomit.
Pompeo said he received a report Sunday morning of "relatively little" fighting along the Syrian border after he and Vice President Mike Pence brokered a temporary cease-fire with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara last week. He insisted U.S. interests, including preventing ethnic cleansing of the Kurds in the region and a resurgence of the Islamic State, or ISIS, are being served.
"I'm very confident that this administration's efforts to crush ISIS will continue," Pompeo said on ABC's "This Week."
But New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and others on the Sunday morning political shows called the administration's actions a mistake that abandons the Kurds and other allies while bolstering Russia's position in the Middle East.
"I think the secretary lives in a parallel, alternative universe," Menendez said on ABC.
Former Army Gen. David Petraeus said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. has abandoned its Syrian Kurdish partners and called the U.S. actions "a grave, strategic mistake."
"This does not end an endless war," he said. "It probably prolongs it."
Critics say Trump gave Erdogan a green light to attack American-allied Kurdish militias, risking a resurgence of ISIS and a slaughter of the Kurds, when he pulled U.S. troops out of Syria.
The president often makes policy on the fly, said Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful. "What President Trump does is wake up in the morning and have a phone call or maybe a tweet and completely change years or even decades of U.S. policy, surprising his own generals and country," Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said on NBC's "Meet the Press."