President Trump on Monday said it is time to remove the United States from “ridiculous endless wars” after he decided to pull back American troops from northern Syria amid an impending Turkish military operation there.
“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted.
“WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” the president added.
The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was many years ago. We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight. When I arrived in Washington, ISIS was running rampant in the area. We quickly defeated 100% of the ISIS Caliphate,…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
Trump’s remarks came hours after the White House announced late Sunday that Turkey would be moving forward with a long-threatened offensive in northern Syria and that U.S. troops would not be in the “immediate area” when it happens.
Trump spoke with Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan about the matter earlier Sunday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” Grisham said.
The U.S. began pulling back troops from the Turkish-Syrian border early Monday, according to multiple reports.
Trump’s decision marked a reversal and was viewed as an endorsement of Turkey’s plans for the offensive.
The U.S. has worked closely with Kurdish fighters in Syria in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are led by the Kurds, reportedly denounced Trump’s decision as a “stab in the back” and have warned it could erode gains made against ISIS in the region.
Turkey, which views the Kurdish forces as a terrorist insurgency, has long been frustrated with the U.S. alliance with the group. The U.S. has been working on establishing a safe zone along the border in order to reduce tensions, but the plans have thus far been unsuccessful and Turkey has threatened a military operation near the border.
Trump decision drew immediate criticism, including from one of his closest allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo. If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making,” Graham tweeted Monday.
Trump, who campaigned on bringing U.S. troops home, has sought to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. He called for a complete withdrawal last December, but ultimately reversed course amid protest from the Pentagon.
Trump on Monday also repeated his claim that the U.S. has defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate, which has been challenged in the past.
“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to … figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’ They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!” Trump tweeted.