The White House:
Susan Page, USA TODAY
Published 6: 27 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2019 | Updated 9: 57 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2019
President Trump said Syria has “got a lot of sand” while talking about Turkey’s invasion of the country.
WASHINGTON — Most Americans believe that President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the Syrian border has damaged America’s reputation around the world as a reliable ally, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds.
Even Republicans, typically in Trump’s corner, by 44%-36% say the nation’s reputation has been hurt.
Many of those surveyed express uncertainty about what to think; only half say they are very or somewhat familiar with rapidly changing developments in the region. The abrupt U.S. withdrawal opened the door to a Turkish military assault on the Kurds, who had been aligned with U.S. forces against ISIS. The White House announced Thursday that Turkey had agreed to a five-day ceasefire to allow Kurds to withdraw from the area.
Overall, a 37% plurality of Americans calls the president’s decision to withdraw the small contingent of U.S. troops wrong because it upset stability in a dangerous region; 27% say it was right because the United States has too many military commitments around the world. More than one in four Republicans see the decision as wrong.
Opposition swells among those who are more familiar with what’s happening in the region. By nearly 2-1, 58%-30%, they say the president made the wrong call.
“The decision to remove troops from northern Syria has not proven to be popular with the American public,” said Cliff Young, the president of Ipsos. “While Americans remain divided on most topics, there is some surprising unanimity here, especially among people more familiar with the decision.”
Overall, 54% say the withdrawal has damaged the nation’s standing as a trusted ally.
The decision has put Trump at odds not only with some GOP voters but also with GOP lawmakers. In the House Wednesday, more than two-thirds of Republicans joined every Democrat in passing a resolution that condemned the withdrawal as a step that endangered the Kurds and benefited Russia, Syria and Iran.
In the USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, Americans by more than 3-1, 61%-19%, say the nation has an obligation to protect the Kurds, who have been U.S. allies in battles in Syria and Iraq. That sentiment crosses party lines, including 72% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans.
And there is bipartisan concern that the ISIS fighters who have escaped Kurdish prisons in the chaos are likely to pose a terrorist threat down the road: 54% predict they will be a threat in the region, 44% say they will be a threat in the United States.
The president did get credit from two-thirds of Republicans for delivering on his campaign promise to “end endless wars.” And including Trump’s name in the question may make a difference. In the poll, 57% of Republicans say they back his Syria policy, despite concerns about its consequences. But only 41% of Republicans say withdrawing U.S. troops from the Syrian border — essentially, Trump’s Syria policy, but without mentioning his name — was the right decision to make.
Among all Americans surveyed, just 31% say they support the president’s policy on Syria.
The online poll of 1,006 adults, taken Wednesday and Thursday, has a credibility interval of 3.5 percentage points.
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