President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, saying he is “just doing what I said I was going to do” during his presidential campaign.
Trump’s comments come a day after Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the President, told reporters at the White House that Trump will reevaluate the withdrawal plan for Syria, although the South Carolina senator told CNN later Sunday that the President had not reversed his Syria orders.
“… I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places. Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Just doing what I said I was going to do!”
The President said in another tweet Monday morning, “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.”
Graham suggested to reporters on Sunday after having lunch with Trump that the President now better understands the stakes in Syria and, for now, has agreed to reevaluate his plans to immediately withdraw all US troops from the country. Graham has been a harsh critic of the withdrawal decision, which he initially called a “disaster.”
“After discussions with the President and (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph) Dunford, I never felt better about where we are headed,” Graham said. “I think we’re slowing things down in a smart way. But the goal has always been the same. To be able to leave Syria and make sure ISIS never comes back.”
Graham told CNN later in the day that he didn’t mean to suggest Trump is going back on his withdrawal decision.
“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,” he said.
Much of the criticism surrounding the President’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria – a move he frequently mentioned both on the campaign trail and in office – has been tied to the possibility that a lack of US troops could allow ISIS to regain some of its strength in the region.
Graham has also expressed concern about the fate of the Kurdish people in the country once US troops leave.
“There are three things important for this country. Number one, make sure that ISIS never comes back in Syria,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We need to keep our troops there,” Graham said. “They’re inside the 10-yard line in defeating ISIS, but we’re not there yet. If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered.”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.