Dec 3, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Lindsey Graham says he's "lost all confidence" in Lloyd Austin

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday he has lost confidence in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin following his comments surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.

Why it matters: Graham's sentiments come as Austin, whom Graham has previously supported, said Israel risks "strategic defeat" if the country does not do more to protect civilians in Gaza as its war against Hamas continues.

What he's saying: "He's so naive, I mean, I've just lost all confidence in this guy," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

  • "How about focusing on protecting our soldiers, men and women in Syria and Iraq? Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They're already inflamed," Graham said.

Catch up quick: At the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Austin said Saturday that "... in this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat."

  • "So I have repeatedly made clear to Israel's leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative," Austin said.

Though the South Carolina Republican said he personally likes Austin, the war has shown him that Austin "doesn't understand" if the U.S. "... were attacked like this, which we were on 9/11, if somebody called for us within two months to have a ceasefire against Al Qaeda ... we'd have laughed them out of town, we'd have run them out of town."

  • Graham added that Austin is "telling Israel things that are impossible to achieve" and told him to "quit criticizing Israel in public."

Zoom out: Austin's remarks come as the rate of civilian deaths in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war is outpacing those of other conflict zones in the 21st century, Axios' Ivana Saric reports.

Go deeper: U.S. pressing Israel to allow same levels of aid into Gaza as during ceasefire

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