Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration Mulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet MORE on Thursday responded to reports of tension between himself and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Dems want to abolish Electoral College because they 'want rural America to go away' Overwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line MORE over the Trump administration's Syria strategy, calling the South Carolina Republican an "ally."

“I always think of Sen. Graham as an ally and we have shared interests,” Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon prior to meeting with Belgium's defense minister, Didier Reynders.

“He is a problem solver and I am very confident we will come together with solutions for Syria,” Shanahan added of Graham.


The acting Pentagon chief's comments came a day after Graham told The Washington Post that he confronted the top Defense Department official while at the Munich Security Conference last week.

Graham said he told Shanahan at a briefing that the Trump administration's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria by the end of April was “the dumbest f---ing idea I’ve ever heard.”

If that was the policy, Graham added, “I am now your adversary, not your friend.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE in December abruptly declared victory against the ISIS terrorist organization in Syria and announced that the more than 2,000 U.S. troops in the country would be brought home.

The move alarmed lawmakers, defense officials, and allies in the region, all of whom where apparently caught off guard. European allies were rankled, too, as NATO troops rely on the services of U.S. forces to do their job.

Graham has been one of the harshest Capitol Hill critics of Trump’s Syria withdrawal plan, which also prompted the resignation of former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisMattis returning to Stanford months after Pentagon resignation US-backed fighters capture ISIS militants suspected of killing American troops Nielsen warns US 'not prepared' for foreign cyberattacks MORE.

Shanahan on Thursday also pushed back on comments that European allies rejected a request from the Trump administration to stay in Syria as an observer force after U.S. troops withdraw from the country.

“No,” Shanahan said when asked if it was true that European allies declined such an ask.

Shanahan then turned the question over to his Belgium counterpart, who attended meetings with Shanahan at the Munich Security Conference last week.

“We are just looking for the different capacity that we have to take part in such a process,” Reynders said. He added that allies have started to plan for a possible U.S. withdrawal and are open to discuss a “collaboration with the Defense Department.”

“It was a very open discussion in Munich about that, but without the refusal from all different countries like you said,” he said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (D-N.J.), who also attended the Munich Security Conference, told The Post that European allies likely won’t commit new troops to Syria unless Trump promises to leaving some U.S. troops there first.