Syria: Trump is ‘slowing troop withdrawal’ says Graham

President had announced he was ordering all US troops to leave the war-torn country

A file image showing US  Special Forces at a front line outpost outside Manbij in Syria. Senator  Lindsey Graham, suggested  the US troop pullout had been slowed and that he felt ‘a lot better’ about the plan after meeting with Mr Trump. Photograph: Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

A file image showing US Special Forces at a front line outpost outside Manbij in Syria. Senator Lindsey Graham, suggested the US troop pullout had been slowed and that he felt ‘a lot better’ about the plan after meeting with Mr Trump. Photograph: Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

 

President Donald Trump has ordered a slowdown to the withdrawal of US forces in Syria, Republican senator Lindsey Graham has said.

“I think we’re in a pause situation,” the South Carolina Republican said outside the White House after lunch with the president.

Mr Trump announced earlier this month that he was ordering the withdrawal of all the roughly 2,000 troops from war-torn Syria, with aides expecting it to take place swiftly.

The president had declared victory over the Islamic State group in Syria, though pockets of fighting remain.

A picture taken on December 30th, 2018, shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria’s northern city of Manbij. Photograph: AFP/Getty
A picture taken on December 30th, 2018, shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria’s northern city of Manbij. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Mr Graham had been an outspoken critic of Mr Trump’s decision, which had drawn bi-partisan criticism.

The announcement had also shocked American allies, including Kurds who have fought alongside the US against the Islamic State group and face an expected assault by Turkey.

“I think we’re slowing things down in a smart way,” Mr Graham said, adding that Mr Trump was very aware of the plight of the Kurds.

US Senator Lindsey Graham said president Donald Trump had promised US troops would stay in Syria to finish the job of destroying the Islamic State. Photograph: AFP/Getty
US Senator Lindsey Graham said president Donald Trump had promised US troops would stay in Syria to finish the job of destroying the Islamic State. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Critics had contended that the US withdrawal would embolden Iran and Russia, which have supported the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

US national security adviser John Bolton was expected to travel to Israel and Turkey next weekend to discuss the president’s plans with the American allies.

Mr Graham told US news channel CNN: “I’m going to ask him to sit down with his generals and reconsider how to do this. Slow this down. Make sure that we get it right. Make sure Isis never comes back. Don’t turn Syria over to the Iranians. That’s a nightmare for Israel.

“And, at the end of the day, if we leave the Kurds and abandon them and they get slaughtered, who’s going to help you in the future?

“I want to fight the war in the enemy’s backyard, not ours. That’s why we need a forward-deployed force in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan for a while to come.” - Agencies