Less than two weeks after announcing a rapid withdrawal of U.S. force from Syria, President Donald Trump has slowed the pace of the troop pullout, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Sunday.
- Graham, who met with Trump on Sunday after previously blasting his about-face in the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria, announced that Trump "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."
- "I think we're in a pause situation where we are re-evaluating what's the best way to achieve the president's objective of having people pay more and do more," Graham told The New York Times on Sunday.
- "He promised to destroy ISIS. He's going to keep that promise," Graham added. "We're not there yet, but as I said today, we're inside the 10-yard line and the president understands the need to finish the job."
- What "pause situation" actually means, we have no idea. Trump, who declared on Dec. 19 that ISIS was "defeated" in Syria, reversed course 24 hours later after declaring on Twitter that with the U.S. withdrawal, other regional players like Turkey, Russia and Iran "now they will have to fight ISIS and others."
- According to Pentagon data released as part of an August inspector general report for Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines, ISIS has an estimated 15,500 to 17,100 fighters in Iraq, as well as 14,000 fighters in Syria; indeed, a Dec. 26 analysis in Jane's Intelligence Review found that ISIS is "exploiting the chaotic and unresolved security situation" in Iraq to reconstitute itself.
- Also on Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported that Syrian army units had reportedly entered the key city of Manbij "at the request of Kurdish militias, who were concerned about the imminent threat of attack by Turkey" following Trump's withdrawal order.