President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his decision to remove all U.S. military troops from Syria, calling the move “no surprise” and describing it in the verbiage of his “America first” philosophy.
The commander in chief surprised lawmakers of both parties Wednesday morning when he announced his move and declared victory against the Islamic State group inside the war-torn country. Senior national security aides on Wednesday afternoon were unable to describe any withdrawal plan or firm exit date as the Pentagon referred reporters to the White House and it referred them to the Pentagon for details that apparently were not crafted before the announcement.
His decision should have been “no surprise” to lawmakers, said a senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday afternoon. She declined to discuss whether Trump caught his Cabinet-level or White House national security officials off-guard or whether there had been internal discussions prior to Wednesday morning. And her boss sounded a similar message the next day.
“Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer,” he wrote in a tweet. “Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called Trump’s Syria pullout the “right decision.”
“Donald’s right, and I agree with him,” Putin said during his yearly news conference.
But members of both parties on Capitol Hill called his decision a major win for all those U.S. foes.
Senate Armed Services member Ben Sasse of Nebraska was among those on Capitol Hill who expressed dismay.
“Eight days ago the administration called a hypothetical pullout ‘reckless,’” he said in a statement. “Today, we’re leaving. The president’s generals have no idea where this weak decision came from: They believe the high-fiving winners today are Iran, ISIS, and Hezbollah. The losers are Israel, humanitarian victims, and U.S. intelligence gathering. A lot of American allies will be slaughtered if this retreat is implemented.”
But the president on Thursday argued what he did as a candidate, that the United States should not be “the Policeman of the Middle East,” which he contends gets Washington “NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing.”
“Do we want to be there forever?” he asked rhetorically before saying he believes it is “Time for others to finally fight....”
Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
Senior administration officials defended the move Wednesday, saying the U.S. remains able to strike the violent extremist group across the region, adding the coalition fight against it is not ending just because of the Syria withdrawal.
“I am building by far the most powerful military in the world,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “ISIS hits us they are doomed!”
....Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us. I am building by far the most powerful military in the world. ISIS hits us they are doomed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018