Over the weekend, Trump announced that he would be withdrawing troops from northeastern Syria — an area where many of the United States’ Kurdish allies live. This decision was part of Trump’s effort to deliver on a campaign promise to withdraw troops from the “endless wars” in the Middle East.
The move was highly controversial among Republicans who feared the withdrawal could lead to a power vacuum similar to the one that formed when the U.S. left Iraq — which the Islamic State ultimately filled. Republicans also feared for the Kurdish soldiers in the region because an American withdrawal meant that the Kurds will likely face a military threat from Turkey.
That fear seems to have already come to fruition, as Turkish soldiers under President Recep Erdogan have already announced plans to invade the region by Wednesday night.
During an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Graham explained his dismay with Trump’s decision and warned that it could lead to the “biggest mistake” of his presidency.
Watch Graham’s comments:
“I will say this to the president, it will be hard to protect America without allies over there and the Kurds have been good allies. When Turkey goes into Syria, they’re not going in to fight ISIS, they’re going in to kill the Kurds because in their eyes they are more of a threat to Turkey than ISIS. I hope [Trump] is right. I don’t think so. I know every military person has told him: Don’t do this. This is the pre-9/11 mentality that paved the way for 9/11. What’s happening in Afghanistan is no concern to us. If he follows through with this. It would be the biggest mistake of his presidency.”
Graham noted that Kurdish soldiers allowed many U.S. troops to stay home or provide only air cover because they were on the ground to fight ISIS — which was largely destroyed under President Trump.
The senator claimed it would be “delusional and dangerous” to abandon that strategy against ISIS.
“Here’s what breaks my heart: The Trump way of doing business worked. We destroyed ISIS with the help of the Kurds. American air power with 60,000 ground troops provided by people in the region works. We did this with a couple thousand Americans. We can’t abandon the Kurds now. We can’t turn it over to Turkey. To think that will work is really delusional and dangerous.”
For now, it is unclear if Trump will back away from his decision. He has promised to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if they attack the Kurds, but it doesn’t look like Erdogan cares at all, as he has positioned his military to take over the region by the end of the day.