Graham says he won't support 'fatally flawed' war powers request

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (R-S.C.) says he will oppose President Obama's war powers measure against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) calling the proposal "fatally flawed."

Graham on Thursday said the proposed authorization for the use of military force provides no means of protecting the 5,000 vetted Syrian rebels the U.S. hopes to train in the anti-ISIS fight from the regime of Bashar Assad.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Any authorization to use force that will not allow us to neutralize the air threats that any group going into Syria would face from Assad is not only militarily unsound, it is immoral,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, during a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. 

“And it shows that the president doesn’t have the will to destroy ISIL,” he added, using another name for the terror group. “This is the most illogical strategy I have ever witnessed. It makes no military sense. You cannot win and destroy ISIL if you do not have a strategy regarding Syria.”

Graham said the defect in the resolution became “crystal clear” on Wednesday when Defense Department leaders testified they did not know how the U.S. would protect the rebels in battle against Syrian government forces.

"I don't believe that the legal aspect of that has been determined," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The proposed resolution would only allow U.S. forces to protect Iraqis, not Syrian rebels, on the battlefield, added Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who appeared alongside Carter.

The president is asking lawmakers to sign off on a new authorization specifically against ISIS and its associated groups. The measure which would ban "enduring" ground combat operations already faced a tough sell on Capitol Hill.

Republicans oppose that language because they worry it will handcuff military commanders, but Democrats fear it is too broad and could lead to more U.S. involvement.

Graham lamented that the U.S is training and equipping rebels “with the understanding they can only fight ISIL, but when the most logical thing to occur does occur, which is that Assad will attack them so they one day cannot turn on him … we do not have the authority to protect the people we train.”

Graham predicted that no Arab or regional force would send a ground force into war-torn Syria without U.S. airpower backing it up.

He speculated the Obama administration would not commit to fighting the Assad regime because the president has a “fixation” on striking a nuclear deal with Iran, a close ally of government in Damascus.

“If you made this a book or a movie, nobody would buy it,” Graham said.