SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation disagree over President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria.
Sen. Mike Lee said he "couldn't agree more" with the president, while Rep. Chris Stewart calls it a "mistake" and Rep. John Curtis wants to "stay the course" in the region.
And Lee said he takes Trump at his word that the U.S. military had achieved its goal of defeating Islamic State militants in Syria.
"If the president says that we’ve done that, I believe him. The president has access to more intel than the rest of us get, and I trust his judgment on this. I think he made the right choice," Lee told Fox News on Thursday.
Stewart said it's critical for the U.S. and its allies to remain engaged.
“I believe the president’s new policy on Syria is a mistake," he said.
Most troubling, if we withdraw, we leave our allies exposed and in a weakened position, Stewart said. "The only ones who benefit from this decision are our adversaries in the region, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah."
Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he is working with the Trump administration to change this policy to one that would "protect our vital interest in the region."
Curtis, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he strongly supports the military and agrees the U.S. needs to find a way to end the conflict.
"However, the defeat of ISIS is a long-term endeavor," he said. "I am concerned that the mission in Syria is not yet accomplished and we should stay the course to eliminate Iranian influence, counter Russia’s troubling behavior in the region, and ensure the long-term stability of Syria."
Curtis' and Lee's differing opinions show the split in the GOP on the Trump administration's move to withdraw all of the approximately 2,000 American troops from Syria.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called it an "Obama-like decision."
"I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. And I have no understanding of why we’re doing this. To me, it is an ill-conceived idea. The downside is really great and the upside is pretty small," he told reporters.
Lee told Fox, "I couldn’t disagree more and I couldn’t agree more with the president’s decision."
It's the opposite of an Obama decision, he said.
"Obama got us involved, Trump’s taking us out. Congress never declared war or authorized the use of military force in Syria. We shouldn’t be there anyway without Congress doing that," Lee said.
Lee said he had concerns about going into Syria from the outset. He said he could never get a "straight answer" from the Obama administration or Pentagon officials at the time about the objective.55 comments on this story
"Are we trying to oust (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad? If so, what’s a post-Assad Syria look like? And is it going to be any more friendly to our interests?" Lee said.
The U.S. has supported opponents of Assad, though American troops in the country have mostly avoided direct combat with the Russian-backed Syrian Army and its proxies.
Stewart said American forces have always maintained a very small footprint in Syria, but a huge impact on humanitarian, political and military objectives.