Senior Republican Senator Says He Will Ask Trump to Rethink Syria Pullout

Lindsey Graham
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A senior Republican senator said he would try to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump at a White House lunch on Sunday to reconsider his order for a total U.S. military pullout from Syria and leave some U.S. troops there.

Senator Lindsey Graham warned that removing all U.S. forces would hurt U.S. security by allowing Islamic State to rebuild, betraying U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters battling remnants of the militant group, also known as ISIS, and enhancing Iran’s ability to threaten Israel.

The South Carolina Republican said he would ask Trump “to sit down with his generals and reconsider how to do this. Slow this down. Make sure we get it right. Make sure ISIS never comes back. Don’t turn Syria over to the Iranians.”

“I want to fight the war in the enemy’s backyard, not ours,” Graham said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union show.

Graham praised Trump, who visited U.S. troops in Iraq last week, for announcing that a U.S. force would remain there. But he said ISIS, while holding only slivers of territory, remained a potent threat in northeastern Syria.

“That’s why we need to keep some of our troops there,” he said.

The Pentagon says it is considering plans for a “deliberate and controlled withdrawal.” One option, according to a person familiar with the discussions, is for a 120-day pullout period.

Graham, an influential lawmaker on national security policy who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is an ally of Trump, although he has opposed some of his foreign policy decisions.

He has joined other Republicans and Democrats in criticizing Trump’s order for the pullout of all 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in Syria in support of anti-ISIS fighters made up mostly of Kurds.

Turkey views the Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, as a branch of its own Kurdish separatist movement. It is threatening to launch an offensive against the YPG, igniting fears of significant civilian casualties.

U.S. commanders planning the U.S. withdrawal are recommending that YPG fighters battling ISIS be allowed to keep U.S.-supplied weapons, according to U.S. officials. That proposal would likely anger NATO ally Turkey, where Tump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, holds talks this week.

Trump decided on the Syria withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, ignoring the advice of top national security aides and without consulting lawmakers or U.S. allies participating in anti-ISIS operations. The decision prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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TOM
Member

(continue) In a very real sense we are fighting World War III. The difference between now and the previous two world wars is that there were countries and armies that were fighting. Islamic terrorism is an ideology that is not related to a country as it is pervasive across most of the world.

Screwtape
Member

Syria’s been an example of “mission creep”. First it was to combat ISIS, then to foil Iran, now it’s stopping Iran and Russia.

We absolutely should support our Kurdish allies, but not get bogged down in other conflicts. We can do so from Iraq, though it be amusing to watch them TRY to force us out. q.v. Guantanamo.

Rocky Drummond
Member

I really would like to know what brought this about now. He had just finished talking with President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, so was anything discussed then involved or related? If so, what was it?

Sure, we can handle support in Syria from Iraq (so long as they don’t kick us out from there, too), but let’s get out responsibly.

widestancerepublican
Member

Come out of the closet first. Trumptards love those rhinos, when they kiss Trumps ass.

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