Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday slammed President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, saying the move was a “betrayal” of Kurdish allies and would lead to a “resurgence of militancy” in the region.
Withdrawing troops from northeast Syria to pave the way for a Turkish assault on Syrian Kurdish forces would betray U.S. allies who helped defeat the Islamic State, Clinton said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.
“We would not have defeated ISIS by this time if it had not been for the Kurds,” Clinton said. “They deserve better than to have the United States abruptly pull out.”
Trump announced the decision Sunday after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have warned the move would allow Turkey to unleash a deadly attack on Kurdish forces in Syria.
The United States currently has approximately 1,000 troops in Syria, which has been mired in a yearslong civil war. Kurdish forces aligned with U.S.-backed rebels have lost thousands of fighters in the conflict with the Syrian regime, which is backed by Russia.
Clinton said Trump’s latest Syria plan was playing into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hands, and represented another example of Trump allowing foreign leaders to influence U.S. foreign policy. Trump also announced an immediate withdrawal of thousands of troops from Syria last year after speaking to Erdogan, though he later said the drawdown would take place more slowly.
“Why are we sitting silently by and watching him do Putin’s bidding?” Clinton said, adding, “there’s no happier man in the world right now than Putin.”
Clinton, who served as the U.S.’s top diplomat for four years, said Trump’s foreign policy decisions damage the U.S.’s standing overseas.
The next president “will inherit shattered alliances, emboldened adversaries” and “all kinds of internal divisions that are going to have to be addressed,” she said.
Clinton also weighed in on the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump, who beat her in the 2016 presidential election. Clinton said she supported the investigation into Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The president has defended his move and insisted his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.” The White House has also pushed back against House Democrats seeking more information on Trump’s conversation with Zelensky and White House efforts to conceal details from the call.
“It appears to me that there is evidence of abuse of power and obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress,” Clinton said.
Clinton added that Trump’s misconduct was far more serious than the impeachment charges brought against her husband, President Bill Clinton, who lied about an affair with a White House intern in the 1990s.
Trump “was seeking foreign assistance for his own personal and political interests. That is a dangerous breach of our national security,” she added.
Trump has continued to attack Clinton since taking office, including in a tweet Tuesday morning criticizing Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
In the NewsHour interview, Clinton said the latest attacks offered further proof that Trump remains obsessed with the 2016 election.
“He believes that he can change reality through just the force of his personality and his constant lying and accusations,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s comments come as she is back in the spotlight promoting a new book, “The Book of Gutsy Women,” that she co-wrote with daughter Chelsea Clinton. The book profiles several path-breaking women, including Frances Perkins, Shirley Chisolm, and Serena Williams.
Clinton said she hoped the book would “get people to think about who are the women they know in their own lives” who stand up for themselves. She added it was important to highlight the work of women who also have a history of “standing up for others, trying to open doors for others to come behind.”
In addition to her role as first lady, Clinton served as a U.S senator from New York and in 2016 was the first female presidential nominee of a major party.
Watch the full interview with Clinton on Tuesday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour.