Graham: Trump is in a "pause" on Syria withdrawal

Charlene Craig
January 3, 2019

US-backed Kurdish militia has begun to withdraw from Manbij in northern Syria, inviting the Syrian army to move in as Turkey masses troops on the border.

On December 19, following a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump made a surprise announcement that he would be quickly withdrawing United States forces from Syria and Turkey would take over responsibility there. "We're not talking about vast wealth, we're talking about sand and death". "Were talking about sand and death".

'If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became President, they would be a national hero, ' Trump tweeted, using another acronym for IS.

"He told me some things I didn't know that made me feel a lot better about where we're headed in Syria", the SC lawmaker said. Once Trump announced that we were pulling out of Syria, the rest of the world took him seriously.

Israel worries that Iran is constructing a "land bridge" connecting resources and military forces from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean Sea through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, taking advantage of broken local governments and American retreats.

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"I didn't like the fact that they [YPG] are selling the small oil that they have to Iran", Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in front of reporters.

"Military officials have declined to specify the timing of the departure, partly for operational security reasons and partly because many details are still quite fluid, and officials recognize that Mr. Trump could change his mind at any moment and speed up the departure".

Top-ranking USA military officials had repeatedly warned against a hasty retreat from Syria, which they say could leave the door open in Syria to allies of President Bashar al-Assad - notably Russian Federation and Iran.

The President had declared victory over Isis (Islamic State) in Syria, though pockets of fighting remain. "That's a nightmare for Israel", Graham said.

Asked about the timetable for withdrawing from Syria, Trump gave no specific timeline, but also did not back up claims made by Sen.

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The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had confirmed earlier that they were evacuating the town, which they seized from the Daesh terrorist group in 2016. "I never said fast or slow", he said.

Two people have resigned since the decision was announced - Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and a top United States official in the fight against IS, Brett McGurk.

"If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered", he said.

"The president is reconsidering how we would do this", Graham said. (This is bad news for nearly everyone else.) If we're now going to be leaving our limited number of forces in northern Syria for an extended time, that means everyone else has to slam the brakes on or we'll be facing the possibility of American and Russian forces going head-to-head on foreign soil.

On Friday, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met at the White House with Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, to get more clarity on the timing and other details of the withdrawal.

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