Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer 'Didn't Know' the U.S. Has 1,000 Troops in Niger

By Susan Jones | October 23, 2017 | 5:11am EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (Photo: Screen grab/NBC's "Meet the Press)

( - "I didn't know there was 1,000 troops in Niger," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Following Graham on the show, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the same thing -- "No, I did not (know)," he told NBC's Chuck Todd.

Both senators said they expect to be briefed by the Defense Department shortly:

"Well, they are going to brief us next week as to why they were there and what they were doing," Graham told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday. "I got a little insight on why they were there and what they were doing. I can say this to the families: they were there to defend America. They were there to help allies. They were there to prevent another platform to attack America and our allies.



Graham said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is frustrated with the Defense Department's lack of transparency, and "rightly so."

"We don't know exactly where we're at in the world, militarily, and what we're doing. So, John McCain is going to try to create a new system to make sure that we can answer the question, why we were there. We'll know how many soldiers are there, and if somebody gets killed there, that we won't find out about it in the paper.

"And John McCain and I think (Defense Secretary) General Mattis are going to come up with a new process, I hope," Graham said.

Time to reexamine war authorization

Schumer told "Meet the Press," "I hope to be briefed early next week." 

Schumer also said it's time to "reexamine" the current authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that is now 16 years old, dating back to the 2001 effort to eradicate al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"And what it means, Chuck (Todd), for the war authorization is, I agreed with Senator Paul that we ought to look at this carefully. We are in a brave new world. You know, there are no set battle plans. You don't declare war and fight three weeks later.

"But having said that, the Constitution says Congress has the power to declare war. And if you're in a long-term war, Congress ought to keep that ability. So, we need to reexamine this. We are on an AUMF that extends 16 years from right after we were attacked at the World Trade Center. So, I would be for reexamining it. Absolutely," Schumer said.

"There's no easy answer. But we should look at it. The answer we have now is not adequate."

Graham, on the other hand, argued that the current authorization is adequate: "The military determines who the threats are. They come up with the engagement policy," Graham said. "If we don't like what the military does, we can defund the operation."

Graham added that McCain "is right" to tell the military that it must keep Congress better informed about what is going on.

Africa 'new platform' for terrorism

Graham said he worries about the ungoverned spaces of Africa becoming "the new platform" for terrorism, now that ISIS is being pushed out of Iraq and Syria:

"It's a generational struggle. If you don't think it's a generational struggle, you don't understand the war. If you think it's limited in Mideast, you don't understand the theology. It is spreading throughout the world, particularly Africa.

"And if you think it's going to be done in a short period of time, or if you can't -- if you take off means of how you fight this war, there is an authorization to use force tomorrow that limited the war based on time, geography and means, I would vote against it because the war is now morphing. It's going to places that we haven't heard of before," Graham said.

"We're going to follow the terrorists wherever they go," he continued. "We're going to use whatever means we need to, with partners to destroy them, in whatever time it takes it takes, and most people are not ready for that, but I am."

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