Trump agreed to reevaluate Syria evacuation: Graham
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The remarks by Graham came on Sunday after he met with Trump and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss the president’s surprising announcement.
"After discussions with the president and Dunford, I never felt better about where we are headed. I think we're slowing things down in a smart way," the South Carolina Republican, who is a close ally of Trump, told reporters at the White House.
"But the goal has always been the same. To be able to leave Syria and make sure ISIS never comes back," he added, using another acronym for Daesh.
"I think we're in a pause situation where we are reevaluating what's the best way to achieve the president's objective of having people pay more and do more," he said, probably referring to Trump’s assurances to some generals that he was willing to extend the deadline.
In an unexpected change of policy, Trump announced earlier this month that he was going to return the troops back home because the Daesh terrorist group was already defeated and there was no reason for the US to extend military presence in Syria.
The US has reportedly stationed about 2,000 soldiers in 18 bases across Syria since 2015. The Pentagon says the withdrawal would take between two and three months.
The decision was met with criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, prompting Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign. The decision also led Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the so-called anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq, to quit.
But Trump doubled down on his policy by also announcing that he would cut in half the roughly 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan.
Graham, a staunch ally of the president, said the pause did not mean that Trump had backtracked.
"He has not reversed his decision," the senator said. "The pause is to assess the effects of the conditions on the ground."
Earlier this month, Graham warned that a US troops drawdown in the Middle East could pave the way for “a second 9/11.”
The remarks came a day after Turkish media reported that US troops had already left a base in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah and were headed to Iraq.