South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has been among the loudest critics of President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria. When Trump announced the unexpected plans in a tweet, Graham said withdrawing the 2,000 Americans currently in the country would “boost ISIS’s ability to come back.” He also called the decision a “huge Obama-like mistake,” which probably helped get Trump’s attention.
Graham remained on message in a CNN interview Sunday morning. “If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered,” he said. He reiterated that ISIS has not been finished off and said he would try to convince Trump of that at lunch Sunday.
After the lunch, Graham told reporters outside the White House that he was feeling better.
He told me some things I didn’t know that made me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria. 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.
If that’s truly Trump’s position, it’s a departure from his tweets over the past couple weeks. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump wrote on December 19. On December 23, he tweeted that ISIS is “largely defeated” and could be finished off by Syria’s neighbors, including Turkey. Now, Graham says that Trump acknowledges the U.S. still has work to do in defeating ISIS.
On Sunday evening, Graham tweeted a recap of his lunch meeting with Trump:
That only adds to the muddiness of the U.S. position in Syria. After announcing a rapid, 30-day troop withdrawal, and losing his Defense Secretary over the issue, Trump seems to have now decided to stay in the country for much longer than 30 days — at least until he changes his mind tomorrow.