WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he is moving "slowly" on pulling U.S. troops out of Syria as he lashed out at critics of his announcement earlier this month of the withdrawal.
In tweets about Syria, Trump did not give details on his policy nor did he make clear whether he was making a shift from his previous pledge to withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria or merely trying to fend off critics.
Trump retired military leaders who have criticized the Syria withdrawal, calling them "failed generals." He did not indicate if that group included former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned over the plan that critics said blindsided allies in the region.
Trump tweeted that Islamic State militants, known as ISIS, were "mostly gone" and "we’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants."
"I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places," he added. "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."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had criticized Trump's plan to immediately withdraw the troops, had said he felt better about the plan after a lunch meeting with the president Sunday.
"I think we're slowing things down in a smart way," Graham said, adding that "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."
Graham also did not provide details about when U.S. troops in Syria would be moved out, and whether the withdrawal would be phased in.
Critics such as Graham said they feared a withdrawal would give ISIS space to regroup and resume their aggression. They also said a pull out leave Kurdish communities in Syria vulnerable to reprisals from nearby Turkish forces.
Defense Secretary Mattis resigned a day after Trump gave notice of the Syria pullout.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump attacks critics of his Syria policy as 'failed generals,' says moving 'slowly' on pullout