Republican White House candidates on Sunday criticized President Obama’s plan to deploy 50 Special Operations troops in Syria to fight the Islamic State terror group.
“Sending 50 American Special Forces into Syria in the eyes of ISIL shows that Obama is not all in,” candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It is a sign of weakness to ISIL. They have sized Obama up and they think he's weak.”
Graham, a defense hawk and Armed Services Committee member, argued that such a small group will have “no chance of winning” the fight to destroy the Islamic State, whose recent and unexpected rise has resulted in the militant group occupying large swatches of Iraq and Syria.
He downplayed the possibility of a clash between U.S. forces and Russian forces in Syria, sent to protect the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“There may be some potential,” said Graham, who has advocated for sending more troops to the region to battle the Islamic State. “But I see Russia and Iran mopping the floor with Obama ... . Russia is all in with Iran to support Assad.”
The White House’s announcement Friday to deploy the non-combat troops comes roughly two years after Obama vowed that he would not put “American boots on the ground in Syria."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest argued the move is not a change in strategy, only an “intensification” of the president’s plan to help local forces fight the terror group.
Ben Carson, another GOP presidential candidate, said Sunday that he supports Obama's plan in part but that it fails to go far enough.
“I think that’s a move in the right direction ... certainly in terms of helping to guide what the Air Force is doing,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “But I think that that's only a small part of it. We need to have a much bigger plan when it comes to battling the global jihadist because they have big ideals.”
Carson, a first-time candidate, said that if elected he would address Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts in Syria and that the United States should establish a “no-fly” zone in the region.
This is not the first criticism of Obama’s most recent decision.
On Saturday, GOP contender Donald Trump also suggested the move was a half-measure.
"I think we have a president who just doesn't know what he's doing," Trump told CNN before a campaign stop in Norfolk, Va. “You either do it or you don't do it.”
However, Trump, also a first-time candidate, declined to say whether he would deploy more troops to Syria.