US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Sunday that President Donald Trump reassured him about his plan to withdraw US troops from Syria and his commitment to defeating Islamic State (ISIS) during a White House meeting.
“We talked about Syria. He told me some things I didn’t know that made me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria,” Graham told reporters outside the White House after the meeting, according to Reuters.
“We still have some differences but I will tell you that the president is thinking long and hard about Syria - how to withdraw our forces but at the same time achieve our national security interests,” he added.
Graham announced earlier he would meet with Trump and try to persuade him to reconsider his order for a total US military pullout from Syria and leave some US troops there.
He warned that removing all US forces would hurt US security by allowing ISIS to rebuild, betraying US-backed Kurdish fighters battling remnants of the group and enhancing Iran’s ability to threaten Israel.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Graham suggested Trump now better understands the stakes in Syria and has agreed to reevaluate, for now, his plans to immediately withdraw all US troops from the country.
He stressed, however that Trump remains committed to bringing American servicemen and women home, even as he continues to weigh the greater regional dynamics.
He told CNN, "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."
Graham added he didn't mean to suggest that Trump is pausing troop withdrawal altogether.
"He has not reversed his decision" to withdraw troops from Syria, Graham said. "The pause is to assess the effects of the conditions on the ground."
Trump unexpectedly announced last week he would withdraw all US forces from Syria. The move has been met with criticism from some Republican lawmakers and was followed by the resignation of Defense Secretary Mattis and of Brett McGurk, Trump’s special envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS.
Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, according to some reports, was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections from virtually everyone involved in the fight against ISIS.
Trump last week defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, saying during an unannounced visit to Iraq, "I think a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking. It's time for us to start using our head.”