Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says President Donald Trump now understands what is at stake in Syria and has agreed to slowing, for now, his plans to immediately withdraw all US troops from Syria.
“After discussions with the President and (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph) Dunford, I never felt better about where we are headed. I think we’re slowing things down in a smart way,” the South Carolina Republican said, adding later: “I think we’re in a pause situation where we are reevaluating what’s the best way to achieve the President’s objective of having people pay more and do more.”
Graham said during the President’s trip to Iraq, commanders on the ground informed Trump that ISIS is not “completely destroyed,” which he said was an “eye-opening” experience for the commander in chief.
“The President assured me he is going to make sure he gets the job done, and I assured him that nobody has done more to defeat ISIS than he has. We are inside the 10-yard line,” Graham told reporters at the White House, where he’d just come from lunch with the President.
Graham, who was a harsh critic of Trump’s plans to bring home US troops from Syria when the decision was announced earlier in December, said he departed his meal Sunday feeling cheered.
“I feel better about Syria than I felt before I had lunch. The President is taking this really seriously. The trip to Iraq was well timed,” he said.
The White House did not immediately respond when asked for more details about updated plans to bring home US troops from Syria.
Earlier in the day, Graham said that withdrawing US troops from Syria could directly result in the deaths of Kurdish people there.
“There are three things important for this country. Number one, make sure that ISIS never comes back in Syria,” Graham said to CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “We need to kseep our troops there. They’re inside the ten-yard line in defeating ISIS, but we’re not there yet. If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered.”
“How are you going to convince President Trump to do that?” Bash asked.
“I’m going to talk to him at lunch,” Graham replied.
Trump’s decision earlier this month to order his staff to execute the “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of US military from Syria was met with harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle. Hours after the announcement, Graham decried the move as a “disaster” and “a stain on the honor of the United States.”
On Sunday, he warned against the transfer of security in Syria from the US to Russian and Turkish forces, a change that could leave the Syrian Kurds, whom the United States has assisted and armed, at risk from both ISIS and Turkey.
“I’m asking the President to make sure that we have troops there to protect us. Don’t outsource our national security to some foreign power,” Graham told CNN earlier on Sunday. “If we leave now the Kurds will get in a fight with Turkey, they could get slaughtered. Who would help you in the future?”
“And this is something you’re going to tell the President today?” Bash asked.
“Yeah, I’m going to ask the President to do something President Obama would never do: reconsider,” Graham replied.