Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Wednesday the United States could be facing a “national security disaster in the making” after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of Turkey’s planned invasion of the region.
In a series of tweets, Graham appeared to respond to Trump’s comments to reporters earlier on Wednesday that undermined the U.S.’s longstanding alliance with Kurdish forces fighting the self-described Islamic State in Syria.
“They’re not angels,” Trump said of the Kurds. The president also said the invasion of Syria is “not our problem,” though Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were scheduled to travel to Turkey on Wednesday to negotiate a ceasefire.
Graham, a frequent Trump cheerleader, urged the president to “adjust his thinking.”
“I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements, this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq,” Graham wrote.
Trump responded to Graham’s comments during a joint press conference with the president of Italy, saying the South Carolina senator should “focus on [the] judiciary.”
“Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years with thousands of soldiers fighting other people’s wars,” Trump said. “I want to get out of the Middle East.”
Graham called Trump’s decision to withdraw “shortsighted” and “irresponsible” last week and said abandoning the U.S.’s Kurdish allies would be “a stain on America’s honor.”
Trump signed an executive order on Monday to impose sanctions and visa bans on top members of the Turkish government as punishment for the country’s offensive into Syria. The order came roughly a week after the president effectively greenlighted Turkey’s invasion by withdrawing U.S. support for Kurdish allies. Trump also said Monday that a small garrison of U.S. troops would remain in Syria.
The president’s actions have drawn widespread backlash from U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, world leaders and human rights groups.
“This is a terribly unwise decision by the President to abandon our Kurdish allies, who have been our major partner in the fight against the Islamic State,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement last week.
Trump has continued to stand by his decision, on Wednesday calling it “strategically brilliant.”