Donald Trump’s decision to pull all American troops out of Syria was widely controversial, leading to condemnation from both the left and the right, and spurring the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis. Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting against ISIS, resigned the next day. Now that the damage has been done, Trump is reportedly considering changing his mind, because of course he is.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump is still committed to pulling troops out of Syria, but is considering slowing his original 30-day timetable for the process. He discussed this new strategy in a meeting with Sen. Lindsay Graham on Sunday night.
“I think we’re slowing things down in a smart way,” Graham told the Journal. “But the goal has always been the same: To be able to leave Syria, to make sure ISIS never comes back, our partners are taken care of and Iran’s contained.”
“I think we are in a pause situation, where we’re re-evaluating what’s the best way to achieve the president’s objective of having people pay more and do more,” Graham said.
According to Graham, after the widespread backlash over his 30-day withdrawal strategy, Trump may now be reconsidering the timeline.
“The president’s trip to Iraq was eye-opening,” Graham said. “The commanders there told him that ISIS was in a world of hurt, but not completely destroyed.”
Many Republicans and Democrats worry that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria could strengthen Iran’s grip on the region. Others caution that the absence of U.S. troops may make it easier for both Turkey and Syria to target the Kurds.
Some military experts say we will need to keep an eye on ISIS for the forseeable future.
“ISIS is an idea and as long as the fertile ground exists… you’re going to have it flare back up again,” former Army General Stanley McChrystal told ABC on Sunday.
“There is an argument that says we just pull up our stuff, go home, let the region run itself,” McChrystal said. “That has not done well for the last 50 or 60 years.”
To be fair, the region might have done a lot better had we not helped overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran, spurring the country’s turn to authoritarianism. We could have also left the mujahideen alone rather than arming them. And maybe the first and second Iraq wars could have been avoided. Just a thought.
On one level, McChrystal is right. ISIS is an idea that’s out there now—it’s too late to put the cat back in the bag. All we can do now is stop fucking up so much in the future. Good thing we have the best president ever in charge!
Update, 8:25 pm:
Lindsay Graham lost his shit on CNN earlier today during a conversation about Syria. After host Dana Bash asked the senator if Trump would be at fault if ISIS were strengthened by the U.S. withdrawal, Graham preemptively blamed Obama.
“Everything we’re dealing with today falls on Obama’s watch. He’s the one who withdrew from Iraq,” Graham said.
Bash came back by asserting that Obama only removed troops because of the Status of Forces Agreement. Then, Graham got pissed.
“Listen. No, that’s a bunch of bullshit,” Graham said. “Pardon my French. That’s a complete lie. That’s a complete, absolute lie.”
“He was dealt a bad hand by Obama and he needs to play it better than he’s playing it. Keeping the troops in Iraq is great,” he added.
Seems like Graham, as he might say, is in a WORLD OF HURT.