A senior official in the Israeli government stated on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers asking U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to slow the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria.
According to Bloomberg, the Israeli official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, made the comments as Netanyahu visits Brazil to attend the inauguration of recently elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Pompeo is also scheduled to attend the ceremonies in Brazil.
Netanyahu will reportedly speak with Pompeo about the U.S. strategy in Syria as President Donald Trump continues to defend his decision to pull American forces out of the war-torn country.
Trump abruptly announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria earlier this month, catching allies off guard and attracting criticism from U.S. lawmakers in both major political parties.
The President defended the move in a series of tweets on Monday morning, writing that the withdrawal amounted to fulfilling a campaign promise. He added that U.S. troops will “slowly” return home, “while at the same time-fighting ISIS remnants.”
Critics of the decision have warned that pulling U.S. troops out of Syria could destabilize the region, allow ISIS to regain strength and benefit adversaries like Russia.
A handful of lawmakers have praised Trump’s move, saying the U.S. lacked a sound strategy in Syria.
In his initial withdrawal announcement, Trump said ISIS had been defeated. He has since tempered those comments to state that the extremist group is “mostly” wiped out.
The exact timetable for the troops’ withdrawal is unclear. While Trump said Monday that troops will “slowly” return to the U.S., other reports have indicated he plans to “immediately” remove 2,000 troops from northern Syria.