Sen. Rand Paul Backs Trump on Syria, Afghanistan: 'We Must Stop Our Endless Wars'

By Dimitri Simes | February 7, 2019 | 12:12pm EST
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
(Getty Images)

( -- Following the State of the Union address, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) praised President Donald Trump’s call for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan and Syria, a position that puts him at odds with fellow Senate Republicans.

In his speech, Trump pointed to the human and financial costs of the U.S. military interventions in the Middle East. “In Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives,” he said. “More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded. We have spent more than $7 trillion in the Middle East.”

The president argued that it was time for the United States to reconsider its involvement in these conflicts. “Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump told members of Congress.

Trump’s remarks earned him praise from Senator Paul. Writing on Twitter, the Kentucky Republican stated, “I applaud @realdonaldtrump for delivering an America First vision which included getting out of Afghanistan after almost two decades of being at war. We must stop our endless wars and focus on rebuilding at home.”

Senator Paul’s enthusiasm for the president’s policy shift on Syria and Afghanistan is not shared by most of his Senate colleagues, especially on the Republican side. Just a day before the State of the Union address, the Senate voted 70 to 26 in favor of an amendment critical of Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the two countries. Paul was only one of four Republicans who voted against the measure.  

Many top Republicans caution that a military exit from Syria and Afghanistan is premature and could create opportunities for terrorist groups and regional rivals to assert their influence. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who introduced the amendment opposing withdrawal, proclaimed, “ISIS and Al Qaeda have yet to be defeated, and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there.”

However, Senator Paul offered an impassioned response to the amendment’s supporters on the Senate Floor on Monday. He argued that the United States had already achieved its goals in Afghanistan of punishing the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and their allies.

“Today there is no one living who attacked us on 9/11 that is free,” he said. “There is no one living who aided or abetted the people who attacked us on 9/11. By any measure, we are victorious.”

On Syria, the Kentucky Republican asserted that staying in the country until Russia and Iran withdraw their troops is unfeasible. “They’ve been there a long, long time – they’re not leaving. That means we stay there forever,” Paul warned.

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