Trump defends his decision of troop withdrawal from Syria
Washington DC: Donald Trump has defended his decision to withdraw US troops from the key areas of northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish operation in the region, saying America is not a "police force" and will not fight "endless" wars, even as the Republicans vehemently criticised the President's abrupt move with some terming it a "betrayal" of the Kurds.
President Trump's comments on Monday came a day after the White House announced the withdrawal of the US troops from Syria's northern border. The US' move effectively abandons the Kurds, who were America's main ally in the fight against the ISIS.
Trump claimed that the US was thrilled at his decision of withdrawing the American forces from Syria.
"We want to bring our troops back home. It's been many many years. It's been decades, in many cases. We want to bring our troops back home. I got elected on that. If you go back and look at our speeches, I would say we want to bring our troops back home from these endless wars," Trump told reporters at the White House.
"I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home, and bring them home as rapidly as possible," he said.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had promised to bring back US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
During his interaction with the reporters, Trump said with the endless wars the US forces were doing policing and not fighting.
"The US is like a police force over there (Syria). We're policing. We're not fighting; we're policing. We're not a police force. We're the greatest military force ever assembled because of what I've done over the last three years with USD 2.5 trillion," he said, adding that "we're not going to be there longer".
The troop withdrawal announcement came after the White House said it would step aside to allow for a Turkish operation President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned could come at any moment.
"We're going to be watching Turkey and we hope that they and all of the other countries - or some of the other countries, including the European Union - go in and do whatever they're supposed to do with these captured ISIS fighters and families," Trump said.
"I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane .... they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy," he warned.
"I've done it once. I did it with Pastor Brunson. You remember the Pastor Brunson? And they wouldn't give Pastor Brunson back, and they ended up giving Pastor Brunson back pretty quickly. Their currency fell at record levels and lots of other things happened. It was good. I have a very good relationship with President Erdogan. I want to see it happen," he said.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American who ran a protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was detained for terrorism charges. He was later released following the pressure from the US. Trump said there was a need for other countries to do their bit in terms of fighting wars. he said the US had defeated ISIS.
"When we were at 96 and 95 and 97 per cent, I sort of said let the other countries in the area finish it off," he said.
Trump alleged that the European countries did not help the US in fighting wars.
"These countries are rich, in most cases. They're powerful. They've got armies. They can do the work. But we're not bringing 50-, 60-, 70-, or even 10,000 people to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba," he said.
"We're not going to pay them for the next 50 years, or paying to take care of them for the next 50 years. So we told Europe - we did a great service to the world. And we did a great service to Europe in particular, where so many of these fighters came from," he added.
Trump has faced a barrage of criticism from within his own party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Lindsey Graham and former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
Calling the move "a major blunder", Graham, usually a staunch defender of Trump's foreign policy, said that it was "an impulsive decision that has long-term ramifications" and "cuts against sound military and geopolitical advice".
Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who is one of the few Republicans to criticise the president on other issues, also tweeted that the pullback wa a "betrayal" that "says America is an unreliable ally." The move, he said, "facilitates ISIS resurgence" and "presages another humanitarian disaster".