President Donald Trump's abrupt announcement Wednesday to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has alarmed Trump allies and opponents alike, sparking fears it will backfire on American goals in the region.
Critics warn the dramatic policy turnaround will hurt U.S. counterterror operations, diminish its influence on the ground, and bolster freedom of movement for Iran and remaining Islamic State, or ISIS, militants in Syria.
In an even more unexpected move, the U.S. will end all its air activities — including strikes against ISIS — as part of the withdrawal, Reuters reported Thursday.
"Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an otherwise staunch Trump ally, tweeted Wednesday. "A decision to withdraw will also be viewed as a boost to ISIS desire to come back."
Graham was responding to Trump's initial tweet attempting to justify the Syria shift, which said: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency." While a Pentagon spokesperson affirmed the campaign against ISIS would continue, the new plan is to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria within 60 to 100 days.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a Facebook livestream that "while ISIS has been significantly degraded ... it is not fair or wise to say that they have been defeated. This is a bad idea because it actually, it goes against the fight against ISIS, and potentially helps ISIS."