Pelosi leads congressional delegation in Jordan, Afghanistan visits

Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the region, has been greatly affected by the eight-year civil war in neighboring Syria.
Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Oct. 15, 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a news conference in Washington on Oct. 15, 2019.Zach Gibson / Getty Images

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By Associated Press

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of U.S. lawmakers on a surprise visit to Jordan to discuss "the deepening crisis" in Syria amid a shaky U.S.-brokered cease-fire.

The visit came as critics from both parties in Washington have slammed President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from northern Syria — clearing the way for Turkey's wide-ranging offensive against the Kurdish groups, who had been key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey agreed on Thursday to suspend its offensive for five days, demanding that the Kurdish forces withdraw from a designated strip of the border about 20 miles.

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Pelosi, D-Calif., along with the nine-member congressional delegation, met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman, the capital, late on Saturday for talks focusing on security and "regional stability," according to a statement from her office.

Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the region, has been greatly affected by the eight-year civil war in neighboring Syria. Jordanian officials say the kingdom hosts about 1 million Syrians who have fled the fighting.

"With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey's incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia," the statement said.

Jordan's state news agency, Petra, said Abdullah stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria's territorial integrity and guarantees for the "safe and voluntary" return of refugees.

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"The meeting also covered regional and international efforts to counter terrorism within a comprehensive approach," the agency said.

Pelosi's office said on Sunday night that the delegation moved on to Afghanistan to meet with top Afghan leaders, civil representatives and U.S. military leaders and troops serving there. he trip, which also wasn't made public in advance, briefly overlapped with one by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The delegation included Democrats Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is leading the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump; Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Bennie Thomspon of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. One Republican joined the group, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.