Lindsey Graham says Trump’s ‘shameless’ abandonment of Kurds will revive ISIS terrorists

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of President Trump’s strongest allies in the Senate, on Wednesday said Kurdish fighters in Syria had been “shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration” in its sudden decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria, leaving America’s longtime allies in the fight against ISIS exposed to an attack by Turkey.

“I hope he’s right — I don’t think so. I know that every military person has told him don’t do this,” Graham said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” “If he follows through with this, it’d be the biggest mistake of his presidency.”

Amid news that Turkish forces had launched a long-threatened military offensive into Kurdish-controlled parts of Syria, Trump on Wednesday continued to stand by his decision to pull out U.S. troops, tweeting Wednesday morning that Turkey should be responsible for guarding all ISIS fighters captured in the area and reiterating, in followup tweets, his belief that “going into the Middle East is the worst decision ever made in the history of our country.”

Graham, R-S.C., reacted to Trump’s comments, characterising them as “a pre-9/11 mentality that the Middle East is no concern to us” that “paved the way for 9/11.”

“I hope President Trump’s right,” he said. “I hope we can turn the fight against ISIS over to Turkey. I hope that Turkey when they go into Syria, they won’t slaughter the Kurds. And I would say this to the president: it would be hard to protect America without allies over there….The Kurds have been good allies. And when Turkey goes into Syria they’re not going to fight ISIS, they’re going in to kill the Kurds because in their eyes they’re more of a threat to Turkey than ISIS.”

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16 PHOTOSKurds in SyriaSee GalleryKurds in SyriaPeople spray water on a woman suffering from heat asSyrian Kurds cross the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds rest after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds carry their belongings after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds gather aftercrossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)A man sprays water on a woman suffering from heat after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds carry their belongings after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a ‘worst-case scenario’ could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds walk by Turkish soldiers after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SERENE ASSIRA Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters guards a post flying the PKK flag during the ongoing intensive security deployment against Islamic State (IS) militants in the town of Makhmur, southwest Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on August 21, 2014. Kurdish groups from Iraq and three neighbouring countries are putting aside old rivalries to battle jihadist militants, but there are cracks in this newly-forged unity and it may not last. AFP/ PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE(Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds cross the border fence into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds cross the border fence into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds sit in the back of a car after after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds carry their belongings after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN(Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)Up Next

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Graham added: “We can’t abandon the Kurds now. We can’t turn it over to Turkey. To think that would work is really delusional and dangerous.”

Graham, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is one of a number of Trump’s allies who have condemned the decision to withdraw the troops, who had been serving as a buffer between Kurdish fighters and Turkey.

The Kurdish fighters had fought alongside Americans to defeat the Islamist terror army of ISIS. But their long-held dream of establishing a Kurdish state in territory that overlaps Turkey and Iraq makes them historic enemies of both countries.

The White House issued a statement Sunday evening saying it “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area” of northern Syria.

The move came after months of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening a military operation across the border to clear out the Kurdish forces. The White House said the decision to troops from Syria came after a call on Sunday between Trump and Erdogan, who views the Kurds as a threat to his ruling party. There are roughly 1,000 US troops currently operating in northeastern Syria.

Following reports that American soldiers were leaving their positions in Syria, Trump on Monday offered a rambling defense of his stunning reversal of long-standing American policy, saying, “We’ve been there for many years, long, many, many, many years beyond what we were supposed to be. Not fighting, just there.”

Graham said that U.S. presence in the region has yielded results in fighting ISIS and argued Trump continue with U.S. border patrols along the “safe zone” in northern Syria, otherwise, his administration will be responsible for the return of the Islamic State.

“I would argue for him to go back to the status quo,” Graham said. “The safe zones were working. Patrolling with Turkey and international forces to protect the Kurds and Turkey is the way to go. If we pull out, the Kurds are in a world of hurt and ISIS comes back, and President Trump will own it.”

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