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.
Mr Graham had been an outspoken critic of Mr Trump’s decision, which had drawn bipartisan 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.
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.
I learned a lot from President @realDonaldTrump about our efforts in Syria that was reassuring. (1/3)
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 30, 2018
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.”