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Trump 'orders U.S. troops to slow down Syria withdrawal'

03 January 2019

Trump did not provide a timetable for the planned military exit from Syria, which he announced last month against the advice of top national security aides and without consulting lawmakers or US allies participating in anti-Islamic State operations.

On Monday, the Republican president said the United States was "slowly sending" troops home - a markedly different tone than he used in his initial announcement of a withdrawal on December 19.

During a morning television interview, Graham said he would ask Trump to slow down the troop withdrawal, which was announced earlier this month and drew widespread criticism. The Kurdish fighters are pulling back across the Euphrates river, the Syrian government said.

"I share his goal to withdraw our forces from Syria; I just want to do it in a smart way, make sure Iran is not the big victor", Graham told reporters outside the White House. "I'm not thrilled about that, I'm not happy about it at all". "I campaigned against the NEVER ENDING WARS, remember!" the president tweeted.

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In Afghanistan, Trump also wants to bring home about half of the 14,000 soldiers locked in a war against Taliban guerrillas, but no formal announcement has been made on that move.

"I think we're in a pause situation where we're re-evaluating what's the best way to achieve the president's objective of having people pay more and do more", Graham said.

Though much reduced, and forced into hiding, it is still believed to comprise thousands of guerrillas.

The US-led coalition launched its first raids against IS in September, 2014, more than two years before Trump won the US election. US-backed forces seized the jihadists' self-declared capital Raqa on October 17, 2017. "Why are we getting in the middle of it?" Now he said the militant group is "mostly done", although the network, with its hard-line extremist ideology, continues to inspire sympathizers and has affiliated groups in other parts of the world. "The president will make sure any withdrawal from Syria will be done in a fashion to ensure 1) ISIS is permanently destroyed, 2) Iran doesn't fill in the back end, and 3) our Kurdish allies are protected", Graham tweeted.

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U.S. commanders planning the withdrawal are recommending that YPG fighters battling Isis be allowed to keep US-supplied weapons, according to United States officials.

Trump's decision to exit Syria was widely criticized for leaving America's Kurdish allies exposed to an attack by Turkey in the city of Manbij.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he came out of a lunch with Trump feeling reassured about the Syria policy.

"We talked about Syria and he told me some things I didn't know that make me feel a lot better about where we're headed in Syria", the SC lawmaker said of his meeting with Trump.

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On Sunday, retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal told ABC News he finds Trump "immoral and dishonest" and disagreed with Trump's claims that ISIS has been defeated.

Trump 'orders U.S. troops to slow down Syria withdrawal'