Sen. Lindsey Graham: ‘I Want More American Troops, 5,000 or 6,000’ on the Ground in Syria

By Susan Jones | April 10, 2017 | 9:46am EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants President Trump to send thousands of more troops to Syria. He spoke to NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, April 9. 2017. (Screen grab from "Meet the Press")

( – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says ISIS is a “direct threat to the homeland” and he says the United States should send many more troops to eradicate that threat.

“So you need more American troops to accelerate the demise of ISIL,” Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd.

“We're relying too much on the Kurds. More armed forces, 5,000 or 6,000, would attract more regional fighters to destroy ISIL.

“You need a safe haven quickly, so people can regroup inside of Syria. Then you train the opposition to go after Assad. That's how he's taken out by his own people with our efforts. And you tell the Russians if you continue to bomb the people we train, we'll shoot you down.”

Later in the interview, Graham repeated: “I want more American troops, 5,000 or 6,000, like we have in Iraq, to help destroy ISIL.”

He also repeated that he wants to train opposition forces to “take Assad down.”

“He's a threat to the United States because he's a proxy of Iran. He used chemical weapons. He violated a treaty that he signed. I think it's up to us to enforce that treaty. We're on sound legal footing here, but our strategy is not yet developed.”

Graham praised President Trump for abandoning a policy that was not working – leaving Assad alone. “This president is setting in motion an actual strategy to get rid of Assad.”

And Graham said President Trump has the authorization to use force in Syria:

“I think the president has authorization to use force. Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There's an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Graham said he will not vote for a new authorization for the use of military force, if it “limits our ability to win the war against ISIL or replace Assad.”

Graham said the war in Iraq and Syria will not end as long as Assad remains in power. “He's a recruiting gold mine for ISIL and al Qaeda. He will not be accepted by the region nor his people.”

Graham also wants more sanctions applied to Russia for allowing Assad to continue using chemical weapons:

“The Russian soldiers on the base where this attack occurred, the Russians intentionally, in my view, left chemical weapons in the hands of Assad, their proxy. So I -- if I were President Trump, I would go after Russia through sanctions, not only for interfering in our elections, but aiding and abetting the use of chemical weapons by a war crime, Assad.”

Graham said there may be a legal difference when it comes to the use of chemical weapons versus conventional weapons, but there is no moral difference between the two: “If you’re a mother, your baby is dead,” he said.

“If you kill babies with conventional bombs, it's still a moral outrage. Here's what I think Assad is telling Trump by flying from this base -- F-U. And I think he's making a serious mistake, because if you're an adversary of the United States, and you don't worry about what Trump may do on any given day...then you’re crazy!”

“Wow!” Chuck Todd said.

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