- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2018

Former President Obama’s “bulls—-” decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State and left the Trump administration in a difficult spot, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the South Carolina Republican vehemently rejected the notion that Mr. Obama had no choice but to pull American forces from the country because of a previous agreement Iraqi leaders had reached with the George W. Bush administration years earlier.

“That’s a bunch of bulls—-, pardon my French. That’s a complete lie,” Mr. Graham said. “Obama wanted to get to zero [troops]. He got to zero.”

There are now about 5,200 American troops in Iraq. Their mission centers on training and assisting Iraqi security forces in the fight against the Islamic State.

During a trip to Iraq last week, Mr. Trump said he has no plans to bring those forces home.

But the president has said he’ll withdraw the 2,000 American troops from Syria and also plans to cut in half the 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Mr. Graham, who said he’s having lunch with the president later on Sunday, believes Mr. Trump is rethinking the Syria decision after massive pushback from military leaders and lawmakers.

“The president is reconsidering how we do this,” the senator said. “We’re fighting a war against ISIS. They’re still not defeated in Syria.”

Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria led Defense Secretary James Mattis to step down from his position earlier this month. Mr. Mattis will formally leave his post as Pentagon chief on Monday evening and will be replaced by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who will serve in an acting role until the president makes a formal nomination.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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