February 21, 2019


Inside Patrick Shanahan's clash with Congress in Munich over Syria (Josh Rogin, February 20, 2019, Washington Post)

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the leader of the main congressional delegation, pressed Shanahan on whether he was telling European officials in Munich that the full U.S. withdrawal from Syria was a done deal.

"Are you telling our allies that we are going to go to zero by April 30?" he asked Shanahan, according to Graham.

"Yes, that's been our direction [from the president]," Shanahan replied.

"That's the dumbest f---ing idea I've ever heard," Graham responded.

Graham then launched into a list of consequences he feared would result from a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Syria without a follow-up plan: The Islamic State would return, Turkey would attack Kurdish forces, Iran would gain the advantage. Graham asked Shanahan if he disagreed with that analysis.

"That could very well happen," Shanahan said.

"Well, if the policy is going to be that we are leaving by April 30, I am now your adversary, not your friend," Graham told the acting Pentagon chief, according to Graham. (Several other lawmakers confirmed this exchange.)

Graham's alternative idea, which he spent the weekend pitching in Europe, is for European countries to contribute hundreds of new troops to build a safe zone on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. This zone would keep the Islamic State from returning and provide a buffer between Turkish troops and the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces that the United States trained and armed (but now seems poised to abandon).

The fact that Shanahan was telling European officials the United States was planning a full withdrawal undercut Graham's parallel message that a deployment of European troops would motivate President Trump to leave a couple hundred U.S. forces there to help.

In defense of the Senator, imagined you'd sold out everything your mentor, John McCain, believed in and then you found out you had no influence with the guy you sold it to. Who did he think Donald was?

Posted by at February 21, 2019 12:00 AM


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