- Pentagon considers plans for a 120-day pullout period
- 2018 death toll Syria war's lowest at under 20,000: monitor
A senior Republican US senator said he emerged from a White House meeting with President Donald Trump on Sunday reassured that Trump is committed to defeating Islamic State even as he plans to withdraw American troops from Syria.
Senator Lindsey Graham had warned that removing all 2,000 US troops from Syria would hurt national security by allowing Islamic State to rebuild, betraying US-backed Kurdish fighters of the YPG militia battling remnants of the militant group, and enhancing Iran's ability to threaten Israel.
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.
An ally of Trump, although he has opposed some of his foreign policy decisions, Graham was more upbeat after the meeting, reported Reuters.
"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, an influential voice on national security policy who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters at the White House.
"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," Graham said.
Asked if Trump had agreed to any slowing down of the troop withdrawal, Graham said: "I think the president's very committed to making sure that when we leave Syria, that ISIS is completely defeated."
He said Trump's trip to Iraq last week was an eye-opener and he understood the need to "finish the job" with Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
The Pentagon says it is considering plans for a "deliberate and controlled withdrawal." One option, according to a person familiar with the discussions, is for a 120-day pullout period.
Meanwhile, a war monitor said yesterday Syria's nearly eight-year-old conflict saw its lowest annual death toll in 2018 as the regime reasserted its authority over swathes of territory, reported AFP.
A total of 19,666 people were killed this year as a result of the conflict, which erupted in 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported.