The Trump administration, which abruptly announced in December that it was pulling out of Syria, said Thursday that it will keep 200 U.S. troops in the country for now.
"A small peace keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for period of time," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a one-sentence statement.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had harshly criticized Trump's decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, applauded the president's decision to leave a few hundred as part of an "international stabilizing force."
Graham said it will ensure that Turkey will not get into a conflict with Syrian Democratic Forces, which helped the United States fight Islamic State militants. Turkey views Kurdish members of the SDF as terrorists.
Moreover, Graham said leaving a small force in Syria will serve as a check on Iranian ambitions and help ensure that IS fighters do not try to return.
"A safe zone in Syria made up of international forces is the best way to achieve our national security objectives of continuing to contain Iran, ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS, protecting our Turkish allies, and securing the Turkish border with Syria," Graham said.
Trump's decision to pull 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked U.S. allies and angered the Kurds in Syria, who are vulnerable to attack by Turkey. It also prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a "betrayal of our Kurdish partners."