Israeli official: Netanyahu to ask Pompeo to temper Syria withdrawal

A senior Israeli official on Monday said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to ask U.S. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe new war for soft power hegemony Organizing evacuations during a shutdown The Saudi-Russia oil fight is the last thing the economy needs in a pandemic MORE to slow the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria.

Bloomberg reported that 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 TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE continues to defend his decision to pull American forces out of the war-torn country.

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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 [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] 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.