Graham: Syrian Kurds aligning with Assad would be ‘major disaster’

Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is warning of a “major disaster” if Syrian Kurdish forces align with President Bashar Assad following President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

“If reports accurate about Kurds aligning with Assad, major disaster in the making,” Graham tweeted Friday. “Nightmare for Turkey and eventually Israel. Big winners are Russia, Iran/Assad & ISIS.”

“New conflicts between regional powers take pressure off ISIS,” Graham added in a second tweet.

Graham’s comments come amid conflicting reports about whether Syrian government forces have entered the Kurdish-controlled town of Manbij, which U.S. forces patrol.{mosads}

The Syrian government said in a statement Friday that its forces had entered the city and raised the Syrian flag.

But the U.S. military denied any changes in military forces in the town and war monitors said government forces were only on the perimeter. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said facts on the ground remain uncertain.

Turkey has been demanding the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces from Manbij and has threatened to attack. Ankara considers them terrorists connected to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey.

The Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, said in a statement that they are inviting the Syrian government forces into Manbij “to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion.”

A senior Kurdish official similarly told The Associated Press that the Kurds are working on an agreement with the Russians and the Syrian government that would see the latter take control of the town when U.S. troops leave.

“The aim is to ward off a Turkish offensive,” said the official, Ilham Ahmed. “If the Turks’ excuse is the [Kurdish militia], they will leave their posts to the government.”

The scramble for control of Manbij comes after Trump announced last week that he was ordering the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria.

U.S. officials have not announced a timeline for the withdrawal.

Graham, typically a staunch Trump ally, has vehemently opposed the withdrawal, calling it an “Obama-like mistake.”

Trump has defended his decision, declaring victory against ISIS in the country and saying others can fight the terrorist group’s remnants so the United States isn’t the world’s “policeman.”

“We’ve knocked them out,” Trump said during a visit to Iraq this week. “We’ve knocked them silly. I will tell you that I had some very good talks with President Erdoğan, who wants to knock them out also. And he’ll do it. And others will do it, too, because we’re in their region; they should be really sharing the burden of cost, and they’re not.”

Trump also said he had a “good debate” with Graham about the issue, but added, “I think that a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking.”

Tags Donald Trump Kurds Kurds in Syria Lindsey Graham Syrian civil war troop withdrawal Turkey
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