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

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanWhy Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary Five questions for Trump's new defense secretary on first major tour Trump says media is part of vetting his nominees: 'We save a lot of money that way' MORE on Thursday responded to reports of tension between himself and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid Graham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid 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 TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump 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 MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics 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) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback 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.