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Monday, December 31, 2018, 13:30
US senator: Trump slowing down troop withdrawal from Syria
By Associated Press
Monday, December 31, 2018, 13:30 By Associated Press

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after his meeting with President Donald Trump, Dec 30, 2018. (PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / AP)

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

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

I think we're slowing things down in a smart way. 

Lindsey Graham, Senator, South Carolina

Trump announced earlier this month that he was orderingthe 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.

READ MORE: Syria sends reinforcements east after Trump's pullout plan

Graham had been an outspoken critic of Trump's decision, which had drawn bipartisan criticism. The announcement also had shocked lawmakers and 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," Graham said, adding that Trump was very aware of the plight of the Kurds.

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

ALSO READ: Trump move to pull US troops from Syria opens way to turmoil

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.

This photo released on the Facebook page of the Military Council of Manbij City, shows US troops based around the Syrian town of Manbij speaking with residents, in northern Syria, Dec 23, 2018. (THE MILITARY COUNCIL OF MANBIJ CITY VIA AP)

During his appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Graham previewed his arguments to Trump for reconsidering the Syria pullout.

"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," Graham said.

"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?" he said. "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."

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