By Erik Sherman
December 21, 2018

When Donald Trump announced a sudden withdrawal from Syria and declared victory, he rattled his advisors and raised concerns and questions.

The Washington Post called it a win for Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Senator Lindsey Graham called the move a “stain on the honor” of the U.S. in a speech on the Senate floor.

In an extended interview with National Public Radio, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back and defended administration actions there and in North Korea.

Pompeo said, “We’ve made the caliphate in Syria go away” but admitted that it left a “longtime battle which is a counterterrorism battle not only against ISIS but against Al-Qaida and others”.

Regarding criticism that U.S. withdrawal leaves Kurds in northeastern Syria vulnerable to attack, Pompeo said “we’re counting” on Russians and Turks “to honor their commitment” to the UN Security Council resolution that calls for compliance with “obligations under international law.” But when asked more directly about Russian statements that U.S. withdrawal creates prospects for a peaceful solution like in the city of Aleppo, which Syrian troops forcefully took over, Pompeo said, “I don’t give much credit to the Russian statements on much of anything”.

He also asserted “we always have commitments to our allies” and that, unlike many claims, the U.S. is not “withdrawing from the world” but doing the opposite.

On North Korea and a charge by NPR’s Steve Inkskeep that the country had received concessions without giving an accounting of their nuclear weapons, Pompeo said that the “North Koreans have not suffered an economic sanctions regime like the one that the Trump administration has imposed and continues to impose” that would ultimately gain more cooperation.

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