U.S. President Donald Trump should slow down the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria until Islamic State militants there can be defeated, Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Saturday.
An ill-planned withdrawal “will not end the war against the Islamic State, it will start a new war,” Graham told a press conference in Ankara, a day after he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Syria.
Trump announced in Dec. 2018 that Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and U.S. troops would withdraw.
The details of the U.S. pullout remain unclear, and Ankara and the Syrian government have not ruled out intervention in northern Syria.
Referring to the People’s Protection Units, a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, Graham said he believes U.S. and Turkish military officials are working on “a plan that will move the YPG elements away from Turkey.”
Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) waging an insurgency within the country.
Ankara threatened to enter the YPG-held northern Syrian town of Manbij in Dec. 2018.
Graham said that the YPG’s political arm was connected with the PKK, according to Anadolu.
On Wednesday, a suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State killed 19 people, including U.S. troops, in Manbij.
The deadly attack came a day after Erdogan said Turkey planned to establish a “buffer zone” in northern Syria near the Turkish border after discussing the issue with Trump by phone.
Turkey halted its operation into Manbij following the U.S. withdrawal decision but has since been reinforcing its military posts along the Syrian border.