Buttigieg: Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria-Turkey border makes 'my blood boil'

Democratic presidential hopeful criticizes Trump foreign policy while campaigning in Ames

Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, speaks during a town hall campaign
Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, speaks during a town hall campaign event Wednesday at Iowa State University’s Scheman Building in Ames. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)

AMES — Pete Buttigieg said it makes his blood boil when he thinks about President Donald Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from the Syria-Turkey border, exposing Kurdish forces who have been allies in the U.S. military’s anti-terrorism efforts.

Buttigieg was back in Iowa on Wednesday, a day after the latest Democratic presidential debate. The South Bend, Ind., mayor was on the Iowa State University campus, where he participated in a roundtable discussion on health care issues with local experts, and later held a town hall forum.

During an interview before those events, Buttigieg said Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from the Syria-Turkey border upsets him in part because he remembers serving alongside Afghan troops as a U.S. Naval Reserve intelligence officer.

“I certainly view it through the lens of somebody who served, because I served in a coalition with allies. There were Afghans who risked their lives every day just to be seen anywhere near us,” Buttigieg said. “And thinking now about what we’ve done to a really important ally, in addition to making my blood boil, it also shows what’s at stake in having a president who’s committed to our values.”

Buttigieg said in addition to “destroying American credibility and American values,” he thinks Trump’s decision is making the U.S. less safe because it has led to the release of Islamic State prisoners, and that “the outrage on this one ought to be bipartisan.”

That foreign policy discussion provided a standout moment during Tuesday night’s debate for Buttigieg, as did his pitch for his “Medicare for all who want it” health care plan. He contrasted his plan, which calls for the introduction of a Medicare-like public option but does not eliminate private insurance, with Medicare-for-all plans supported by fellow candidates and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

“There’s a question of who’s going to pay for (Sanders’ and Warren’s Medicare-for-all plans). There’s a question of what happens to middle class taxes. But to me, the biggest question is why create any of those problems for yourselves when a public alternative, Medicare for all who want it, solves the fundamental problem and is paid for without the concern of kicking people off their private plans,” Buttigieg said.


Buttigieg made the same argument during Wednesday night’s town hall campaign event, which was attended by more than 900 people, according to university staff and passed along by the campaign.

The Buttigieg campaign said it raised more than $1 million in the 24 hours after Tuesday night’s debate, and that the average donation was around $24.

Buttigieg has consistently polled fourth in the race in Iowa, behind Warren, Joe Biden and Sanders. A new CBS Poll in Iowa, published earlier this week, had Buttigieg in fourth at 14 percent. The three leaders were each at 22 percent or 21 percent.

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