Continetti on Syria Withdrawal: American Power ‘Often the Lid on That Pressure Cooker Around the World’

• December 19, 2018 7:57 pm


Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti warned Wednesday that pulling U.S. troops out of Syria could empower adversaries to take "hostile actions," comparing an American withdrawal to removing a lid from a pressure cooker.

On MSNBC's "MTP Daily," host Chuck Todd asked Continetti about President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Syria.

"I said there's sort of two pieces of criticism the president's receiving today: how he unveiled it and the substance of it," Todd said. "What was interesting is the near unanimous—apparently even the president's own cabinet is not happy with this decision. I'm referring to both [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo."

"Well, they have reason not to be happy with it, and that's our forward presence in Syria providing reassurance there to our allies, and a presence to kind of deter [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, Russia, Turkey, Iran, all the various bad actors in that country, from taking hostile actions. We're now removing that," Continetti responded. "And just as American power is often the lid on that pressure cooker around the world, you remove that lid from the pressure cooker, bad things come out."

Several media outlets confirmed Wednesday that the White House has ordered the Pentagon to pull U.S. soldiers out of Syria, where about 2,000 troops are deployed to fight the Islamic State. The planned withdrawal has raised concerns among State Department and Pentagon officials.

The Trump administration is split between those favoring continued military engagement in Syria and Trump's preference for withdrawal, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," the president tweeted Wednesday.

A report by the Pentagon's inspector general estimates that there are as many as 30,000 members of ISIS still in Iraq and Syria.

Later in the MSNBC segment, Continetti said that Trump's troop withdrawal reminded him of the president's decision to hold a summit with North Korean leader King Jong Un earlier this year.

"If you go back to last spring, that decision came about because Trump was in a conversation with the South Korean national security adviser, who brought up President Moon's progress with Kim and Trump seized on that and said, ‘We're going to have a summit,'" Continetti said.

Regarding the Syria announcement, Continetti said the president "seized on a conversation recently he had with Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan."

"We don't know the contents of that conversation, but the fact that this decision is following rapidly on the heels of it suggests to me something was said during that phone call that has led to this result, which I believe threatens the national security of the United States," Continetti added.

Trump spoke with Erdogan at the G20 summit earlier this month, and the two had a phone call last week. The Turkish president said earlier this week he received "positive answers" from Trump regarding the situation in northeastern Syria.