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Trump Faces GOP Backlash Over Troop Reductions in Syria and Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis issued his resignation letter to the president shortly after the president's announcements

President Donald Trump is facing opposition from within his own party over his decision on Wednesday to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

Trump has been critical of the many conflicts the U.S. has been engaged in since his presidential campaign.

But his decision to withdraw thousands of American troops in recent days is still being met with surprise and concern. Republicans are warning the president it’s not the right time to make such a move given conditions on the ground.

“Getting out of Syria was no surprise,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

“I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer,” he added. “Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing their work. Time to come home & rebuild.”

He also shared this earlier message on Twitter:

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis issued his resignation letter to the president on Thursday; he’ll be leaving the administration in February. That news alone sent shock waves throughout Washington, D.C.

Mattis said he believed in having a strong global presence and that the president has the right to have a secretary of defense whose views better align with his own. Mattis will stay on until February 28 to give the administration time to find a replacement.

“Our Afghan partners are incapable of subduing the threat posed by ISIS-K alone,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement on Thursday. “In addition, our intelligence capability and military might cannot be replaced by any other regional ally when it comes to subduing ISIS-K in Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

Graham had become an unlikely ally of the president’s after the contentious election of 2016. Back then, Trump called the senator a disgrace and one of the “dumbest” human beings in February 2016. Graham called the president “crazy” and unfit for office that same month.

But Graham became a key player in moving the president’s agenda forward, especially when it comes to judicial nominees such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Like in Syria, troop withdrawal should be based on conditions on the ground,” Graham said this week. “The conditions in Afghanistan — at the present moment — make American troop withdrawals a high-risk strategy. If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11.”

Graham added that he recently returned from Afghanistan and could say without hesitation that ISIS remains a direct threat to the country.

He added that the terror organization would dramatically benefit from a reduced U.S. troop presence.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also said withdrawing troops from Syria was a colossal mistake with grave consequences.

“I’m glad this is on the air and recorded so people can see it,” Rubio told Fox News host Dana Perino on Thursday. “ISIS is going to reemerge as a — maybe not the way they were before — powerful insurgency that can then carry out huge propaganda gains around the world, raise money, plot and/or inspire attacks abroad.”

The withdrawal would involve pulling out roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months, The New York Times and other publications noted.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also said withdrawing troops from Syria was a colossal mistake with grave consequences.

Trump made the decision to start pulling troops from Syria as well around the same time.

“I have supported the Trump administration’s foreign policy across a number of areas,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Ala.) said in a statement on Thursday. “Yesterday’s abrupt about-face to withdraw our limited force presence in Syria, however, is a decision I do not support. It could lead to the resurgence of ISIS — a major national security threat to the United States. It will likely create a vacuum in the region that will be filled by Russian and Iranian forces, or their proxies, increasing their influence in the Middle East at America’s expense.”

Trump is still getting some support from party members for his decision.

In a speech on Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) thanked the president for bringing troops home from the war-torn country. Paul made his comments while speaking out against legislation that would prolong the conflict in Syria.

“President Trump announced that we have won the war against ISIS in Syria,” Paul said. “Our troops are coming home. Thank you, Mr. President. The Syrian Civil War is largely over, but Syria’s a mess and desperately needs reconstruction. These sanctions will delay and possibly prevent reconstruction of Syria and the beginning of a healing time. Now is the time for diplomacy.”

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