(CNSNews.com) – President Trump sounded a somber note on Saturday as he defended a widely-criticized decision to pull U.S. troops away from a part of Syria where Turkish forces are now attacking Kurdish fighters allied to the U.S., saying it was time to bring American soldiers home.
“The Kurds are tending to leave [the area] and that’s good,” Trump said. “Let them have their borders, but I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years, guarding a border between Turkey and Syria, when we can’t guard our own borders at home. I don’t think so.”
“We’ve been in these wars now, one of them 19 years,” he said at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, in reference to the war in Afghanistan, the longest military engagement in American history.
“These wars, they never end,” he said. “And we have to bring our great soldiers back from the never-ending wars.”
As he had done several days earlier, Trump recounted heartbreaking scenes he has witnessed when joining families of American personnel killed in action, as they receive their remains at Dover Air Force Base.
He also recalled his recent visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he met with wounded warriors and awarded five Purple Hearts.
“They have been just decimated,” he said of those he saw there. “They step on a bomb. I mean, what’s done to them is just incredible. So, I see this, and I – you know, it’s, it’s a very hard thing to do.”
“It doesn’t mean we won’t fight. We’ll fight, we’ll fight harder than anybody. But sometimes we have to know what we’re fighting for.”
“And we can’t stay there forever. We have to bring our great heroes, our great soldiers, we have to bring them home,” he said. “It’s time. It’s time.”
In northeastern Syria, Turkish forces are attacking Syrian Kurdish fighters to clear a strip of Syrian territory adjacent to the border of what Ankara calls “terrorists.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he then wants to resettle there several million Syrians who fled their homeland during the civil war and are now sheltering in Turkey.
Trump invited his audience to imagine how media critics would have responded had he made a different decision and decided to keep U.S. forces in northern Syria to oppose the Turkish invasion.
“We could have stayed and we could have fought and we would have knocked Turkey around and we” – he gestured towards media representatives – “they would have hated it.”
“No matter what we did the media would say it’s the wrong decision.”
“Any military engagement where we send young men and women to fight and die must have clear objectives, vital national interests, and a realistic plan for how the conflict will end,” he said. “We don’t want to be in 19-year wars, where we serve as a policing agent for the whole country.”