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Thursday, October 10, 2019 1:00 am

Young calls on NATO to help with Kurds

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

HARLAN – U.S. Sen. Todd Young said Wednesday that NATO members should gather and determine a response to Turkey's military offensive against American-backed Kurds in northern Syria.

“I think we need to convene with the Europeans, our fellow NATO allies, because Turkey is also a NATO ally, and collectively decide the best way forward,” Young, R-Ind., said in an interview at Roemke Farms. “This is not America's security challenge alone, this is also the security challenge of Europeans. 

“In fact, one could argue, since a disproportionate number of those ISIS radicals hail from the European continent and because they are disproportionately affected by the refugee flows that occur after ISIS attacks occur, the Europeans should share in the burden,” said Young, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

U.S.-backed Kurdish militias have been fighting Islamic State militants, also known as ISIS, during Syria's civil war. Turkey's attack this week on Kurds and Islamic State forces comes days after President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw U.S. troops from the border area of Syria and Turkey.

“I would like to know what the plan and rationale was here for disengagement from Syria,” Young said about Trump's decision. “We had a modest troop presence there. When I first heard the president announce that troop presence was going to be removed, I had concerns about the Kurds, because they had allied with us, and we want to incentivize others to ally with us in the defeat of terrorist groups like ISIS.

“Moreover, I had concerns about the stability of that region, because we don't want remnants of ISIS to reconstitute themselves and present an ongoing threat to ourselves and to others,” he said.

Trump wrote in a Monday tweet that his administration had “quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate” after he took office. Young noted Wednesday that Trump has vowed to withdraw U.S. forces from the Middle East, “and he has kept that promise. He's really made every effort to bring our troops home and ensure that American men and women aren't bearing the full burden of keeping the world safe and secure.”

Young visited Roemke Farms to talk with farmers about agriculture, trade and health care. Afterward, The Journal Gazette asked him whether he thought Trump's July 25 telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – in which Trump urged Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, who seeks the Democratic nomination for president – was appropriate.

“Left-wing Democrats in Washington, ever since President Trump has been elected, have been trying to find some way to remove him from office. That much has not changed,” he said about the House speaker's impeachment inquiry against Trump.

“With that said, I have read the transcript (of the phone call), I'm following this very closely, I will continue to follow it closely as witnesses may appear and other developments might occur, but my point of emphasis is and will continue to be focused on things that most matter to Hoosiers: USMCA, bringing down health care costs, keeping Americans safe and secure,” Young said. USMCA is the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

“These are the reasons people sent me to Washington, and I'm not going be distracted as the House tries and figures out what direction they're going to go by the 24/7 news cycle,” Young said.

bfrancisco@jg.net