Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.S.C.) on Monday criticized President Donald Trump's strikes on three Syrian chemical weapons sites as a "missed opportunity," calling it a "major step backwards" for his military approach in the region.
Graham scrutinized the round of air strikes, carried out Friday night in response to a suspected poison gas attack against civilians near Damascus, which he framed as dealing an insufficient blow to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, whom U.S. officials have accused of deploying chemical weapons.
Asked about the president's response to the attacks in Syria during a radio interview on "The Hugh Hewitt Show," Graham griped that his actions "didn’t lay a glove on Assad’s capabilities to wage war."
"We’re becoming the chemical weapons police," Graham said. "We don’t have a strategy about why Syria matters."
He added: "The military strike itself was a tactical response well short of what I thought was justified. So he’s been a good commander-in-chief in general, but this is a major step backwards."
Trump announced what he called a series of "precision strikes" in Syria during a televised address on Friday, calling it a measured response to the "crimes of a monster" in Assad. The strikes struck what the Pentagon described as the "heart" of Assad's chemical weapons program, but did not target Syrian troops or military assets.
The president emphasized that the action did not signal a willingness to maintain U.S. forces long-term in war-torn Syria, where the president has expressed a desire to withdraw ground troops.
“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria — under no circumstances,” Trump said in his address.
Roughly 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed in the country.