Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said that based on a conversation he had with Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday, Mattis “firmly” believes “the job in Syria is not yet done” despite the fact that President Donald Trump ordered a withdrawal of US troops from the country.
Graham, who just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “At This Hour” on Thursday that he and Mattis spoke after Trump announced the decision, which Graham has strongly rebuked and called on the President to reconsider.
“Secretary Mattis is firmly in the camp of the job in Syria is not yet done. That abandoning the Kurds now will hurt us down the road,” Graham told Bolduan, adding, “That ISIS could and probably will come back. And I think that’s the universal view of both [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and Mattis.”
In recent days, Mattis, Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have cautioned against a rapid and immediate withdrawal from Syria, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Graham said that although Trump serves as commander in chief, he would be better served listening to the advice of people he can trust.
“The President has the right to do what he’d like, he is the commander in chief,” Graham said. “All I am saying if you don’t trust these people’s judgment, find somebody you do trust.”
The senator told CNN later Thursday afternoon that he is “confident” that this decision “did not come based on advice from his national security team; it came from the President himself. He has every right to make that decision but we’re urging him to reconsider.”
When asked if he had spoken to Trump directly about this issue, Graham said he had not.
Graham also told Bouldan that Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria was “akin to tearing down the wall along the southern border.”
“You’re right to want a wall on the southern border, Mr. President. You should fight for that wall,” he said. “But we can’t build a wall between us and the Mid East, Mr. President.”
“Taking our forces our of Syria – the 2,200 – would be akin to tearing down the wall along the southern border. We’re more exposed with withdrawing our forces because they’re a virtual wall to protect us against the rise of ISIS and radical Islam,” Graham said.
CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.