(CNSNews.com) - President Trump on Monday defended the White House announcement that U.S. troops are moving out of northern Syria ahead of a planned invasion by Turkey.
The announcement on Sunday followed Trump's telephone call with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
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.
The United States Government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused. The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer. Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial 'Caliphate' by the United States.
Following predictable fury from pundits and politicians on liberal cable outlets as well as Fox News (see below), Trump issued multiple tweets on the subject Monday morning, saying:
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, including capturing thousands of ISIS fighters, mostly from Europe. But Europe did not want them back, they said you keep them USA! I said “NO, we did you a great favor and now you want us to hold them in U.S. prisons at tremendous cost. They are yours for trials.”
They again said “NO,” thinking, as usual, that the U.S. is always the “sucker,” on NATO, on Trade, on everything. 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.
WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. 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!
Following criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, Trump issued two more tweets, saying:
As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a Joe Biden supporter, told CNN Trump "has made a decision to abandon the Kurds who fought alongside us in Syria, in a move that will only advantage Russia and Iran. And that is exactly the ill-considered decision that made (former Defense Secretary) Jim Mattis resign in protest."
Ambassador Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN: "This will reinforce all sorts of doubts about American reliability or the lack of it...What this is part and parcel of is what's seen as an American retreat from the Middle East. It didn't begin with the Trump administration. It began in some ways under the previous administration when the United States didn't react to Syria crossing the red line of chemical weapons use..."
And speaking to Fox News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Trump's announcement "shortsighted and irresponsible," and he compared it to former President Obama's decision to get out of Iraq:
Here's what's going to happen," Graham said.
"This is going to lead to ISIS' reemergence. Nothing better for ISIS than to create a conflict between the Kurds and Turkey. The Kurds will align with Assad because they have nobody to count on because we abandoned them. So this is a big win for Iran and Assad. A big win for ISIS.
"I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey if they step one foot in northeastern Syria. That will sever my relationship with Turkey. I think most of the Congress feels that way. I will do a resolution urging the president to reconsider this decision.”
Graham agreed with President Trump that Europe needs to do more about imprisoned ISIS fighters, "but, you know, he's the president of the United States and it requires leadership."
Graham also said if the U.S. abandons the Kurds, who helped the U.S. combat ISIS, "good luck getting anybody to help America in future with radical Islam, Al Qaeda and ISIS.
"If you believe that Iran is a threat to the region, they're the biggest winner of this," Graham continued. "And you may be tired of fighting radical Islam but they're not tired of fighting you. I heard the same argument from President Obama. All I can say is the campaign is over. I expect the American president to do what is in our national security interest.
"It is never in our national security interest to abandon an ally who's helped us fight ISIS. It is never national security interest to create the conditions for reemerge ends of ISIS. To all those fighters, American soldiers who died against the fight against ISIS I feel terrible for you because they will come back."