news image

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a vocal Republican critic of President Trump’s plan for a 30-day troop withdrawal of American troops from Syria, suggested on Sunday that the pullout had been slowed and that he felt “a lot better” about it after a lunch with the president.

“I think we’re in a pause situation where we are re-evaluating what’s the best way to achieve the president’s objective of having people pay more and do more,” Mr. Graham said.

He did not elaborate on what that meant. But he may have been referring to assurances that Mr. Trump is said to have given some military officials that they can have more time than 30 days to ensure a proper drawdown of troops.

Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement on Twitter this month that he planned to withdraw the 2,000 American troops in Syria over the advice of military officials drew strong objections from many of his usual allies, like Mr. Graham, and helped prompt Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign.

Mr. Graham told reporters outside the West Wing entrance Sunday afternoon that he and the president had had a frank discussion over lunch.

“We talked about Syria and he told me some things that I didn’t know that make me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria,” Mr. Graham said. “He promised to destroy ISIS. He’s going to keep that promise. We’re not there yet, but as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line and the president understands the need to finish the job.”

Mr. Graham told reporters that Mr. Trump was “worried about Iranian influence and the potential dangers to Israel from having a superhighway from Beirut to Tehran in terms of delivering weapons into Lebanon, and he’ll be talking to Turkey about making sure we don’t have a war between the Turks and our allies the Kurds.”

In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” before the lunch, Mr. Graham issued a starker warning about the threat to the Kurds, who are allied with the United States but whom Turkey regards as insurgents.

“If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered,” Mr. Graham said, adding: “The president is reconsidering how we do this. He’s frustrated, I get that.”

White House officials declined to comment on Mr. Graham’s remarks. Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, had said in an email Saturday that the Defense Department would not discuss “operational details,” but was “focused on a deliberate and controlled withdrawal of forces, taking all measures possible to ensure our troops’ safety while they finish off the remnants of ISIS.”

Last week, officials announced that John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, would travel to Turkey and Israel soon to meet with officials there. The discussion about how the pullout from Syria is conducted is expected to continue during those visits.

Departing from Syria had been a campaign pledge of Mr. Trump’s, and he had grudgingly agreed to remain for several more months in 2018 when he initially wanted the military to withdraw. He told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that it was time for the troops to return.

“We’ve been fighting for a long time in Syria,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ve been president for almost two years, and we’ve really stepped it up. And we’ve won against ISIS.”

But the abrupt nature of Mr. Trump’s order was the last straw in his frayed relationship with Mr. Mattis, who resigned after being unable to persuade the president to remain.

In an extraordinary rebuke of Mr. Trump’s worldview, Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star general, wrote a resignation letter in which he took issue with the president’s approach to international alliances and his apparent softness toward adversaries such as Russia.

In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, another retired four-star general, Stanley McChrystal, called the Mattis letter “valuable” as he spoke out against Mr. Trump.

“I think maybe it causes the American people to take pause and say, wait a minute, if we have someone who is as selfless and as committed as Jim Mattis resigns his position, walking away from all the responsibility he feels for every service member in our forces, and he does so in a public way like that, we ought to stop and say, O.K., why did he do it?” said Mr. McChrystal, who led United States forces in Afghanistan but was forced out by President Barack Obama after unflattering comments about officials in his administration.

“We ought to ask what kind of commander in chief he had that Jim Mattis that, you know, the good Marine, felt he had to walk away,” he added.

Mr. McChrystal described Mr. Trump as dishonest and immoral amid questioning from the host, Martha Raddatz, and said he hopes Americans would stop overlooking the president’s failings because they liked certain policies he had enacted.

“I don’t think he tells the truth,” Mr. McChrystal said.

“What I would ask every American to do is, again, stand in front of that mirror and say, what are we about?” he went on. “Am I really willing to throw away or ignore some of the things that people do that are — are pretty unacceptable, normally, just because they accomplish certain other things that we might like?”

Mr. McChrystal described Mr. Trump in starkly negative terms.

“If we want to be governed by someone we wouldn’t do a business deal with because their — their background is so shady, if we’re willing to do that, then that’s in conflict with who I think we are,” he said. “And so I think it’s necessary at those times to take a stand.”

Read More

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here