On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) called on President Donald Trump to rethink his decision to withdraw US forces from eastern Syria, where they have been working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to defeat the Islamic State.
Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, interrupted the televised proceedings on the confirmation of a new US Attorney General to read a prepared statement, following a bombing earlier that day that killed at least 16 people, including four US service members, in the Syrian city of Manbij.
The attack was the most lethal assault on US troops, since they deployed to that country. Indeed, Wednesday’s fatalities equal the entirety of US losses in Syria.
Graham warned of his concern that “the statements made by President Trump” about a US troop withdrawal have “set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy,” and at the same time, they have caused “people that we’re trying to help, to wonder about us.”
Graham also cautioned that Trump seemed to be repeating the same mistake as his predecessor, Barack Obama, whose insistence on an early withdrawal from Iraq (in fulfillment of a campaign pledge, part of Trump’s rationale for withdrawing, as well), just required US forces to return to that country three years later.
“I saw this in Iraq,” Graham said, “and I’m now seeing this in Syria.”
The bombing, which the Islamic State’s unofficial news agency, Amaq, claimed on behalf of the terrorist organization, occurred at a popular restaurant, frequented by American and SDF troops.
“I think it’s the same restaurant I visited,” Graham said, referring to a tour of the area he made last summer, along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D, New Hampshire.)
Both Graham and Shaheen were extremely impressed with what they saw. “I will tell President Trump that it is important that we stay here to help you,” Graham said then to a small group in Manbij. “You’re friends of the United States, and if we leave it will be terrible. ”
On Wednesday, Graham also explained that although “every American wants our troops to come home,” the withdrawal should not occur in a way that endangers the US.
Graham also stressed that the so-called Islamic State is not popular, at least in that area.
“Very few fathers and mothers over there want to turn their daughters over to ISIS, their sons over to ISIS,” he said. “They just need our help.”
“To those who lost their lives today,” Graham continued, “you are defending America.”
“To those in Syria who are trying to work together, you are providing the best and only help for your country,” the Senator said, as he concluded, “I hope the President will look long and hard about what we’re doing in Syria.”