Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham reacted angrily toward President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of American forces from Syria and lambasted the possibility of any similar action in Afghanistan.
Trump announced that American troops were leaving Syria because the Islamic State group had been defeated there. Trump said defeating the group had been the sole purpose of his administration’s troop presence on the war-torn nation, which has been devolving into chaos after years of civil war.
A New York Times report said the administration was also planning to phase out its presence in Afghanistan.
Graham issued a statement opposing any reduction in force in Afghanistan.
“The conditions in Afghanistan — at the present moment — make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy. If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11,” he said in the statement.
Graham said he was basing his opinion on research conducted on the ground.
“I have just returned from Afghanistan and can say — without hesitation — ISIS-K (the branch of the Islamic State group active in Afghanistan and Pakistan) remains a direct threat to our homeland and they would dramatically benefit from a reduced American troop presence,” he said.
Graham said U.S. forces are essential to address the threat of the radical militants.
“Our Afghan partners are incapable of subduing the threat posed by ISIS-K alone. In addition, our intelligence capability and military might cannot be replaced by any other regional ally when it comes to subduing ISIS-K in Afghanistan or Pakistan,” he said. “Like in Syria, troop withdrawal should be based on conditions on the ground.”
Graham issued a second statement on the withdrawal of troops from Syria, calling the action “an Obama-like mistake made by the Trump Administration. While American patience in confronting radical Islam may wane, the radical Islamists’ passion to kill Americans and our allies never wavers.”
In a Friday tweet, he said hearings on the Syrian withdrawal are necessary.
“It is imperative Congress hold hearings on withdrawal decision in Syria — and potentially Afghanistan — to understand implications to our national security,” he tweeted.
It is imperative Congress hold hearings on withdrawal decision in Syria — and potentially Afghanistan — to understand implications to our national security.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 21, 2018
Graham said in his statement that a Syrian withdrawal hands a victory to those who do not deserve it.
“An American withdrawal at this time would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia. I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world.
“Today, we have a small American footprint and limited presence in northeastern Syria in support of our Kurdish allies who were indispensable in the fight against ISIS. Staying there is an insurance policy against the reemergence of ISIS and destruction of our Kurdish allies who fought so bravely against them,” he said.
“An American withdrawal will put the Kurds and all those who came to America’s aid in destroying ISIS at tremendous risk,” Graham added. “It will make it more difficult to recruit future partners willing to confront radical Islam. It will also be seen by Iran and other bad actors as a sign of American weakness in the efforts to contain Iranian expansion.”
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