Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) an “ally” on Thursday, after a contentious exchange between the two last weekend at the Munich Security Conference over Syria policy.
“I always think of Sen. Graham as an ally and we have shared interests. He is a problem solver and I am very confident we will come together with solutions for Syria,” Shanahan told reporters Thursday before a meeting with the Belgian defense minister at the Pentagon.
Graham told Breitbart News and the Post during an interview on his plane flight home from the Munich Security Conference that during a meeting at the conference, he told the acting defense secretary that he was “now your enemy not your friend” over a dispute on withdrawing all U.S. troops in Syria.
Graham had spent three days at the conference over the weekend trying to convince U.S. allies to leave a couple hundred troops behind, so that he could convince President Trump to do the same.
Shanahan, on the other hand, was reiterating Trump’s policy to allies that all U.S. troops would be withdrawing by April 30.
Graham saw that as directly undercutting his goal, and confronted Shanahan at a meeting between the acting secretary of defense and members of Congress in Munich.
Shanahan also denied a Post story that said U.S. allies “rejected” a Trump administration request for them to stay in Syria, even without U.S. troops.
After a reporter asked if the story was accurate, Shanahan replied, “No. This is awesome right, why don’t we ask one of our allies,” before turning to the Belgian Defense Minister Didier Reynders for a response.
“I was attending the meetings … no, we didn’t say that,” Reynders said.
“It was a very open discussion in Munich about that, but without the refusal from all different countries like you said,” he said. “It was the beginning of the discussion in Munich.”