U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his surprise decision to declare victory over Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and completely withdraw U.S. troops from the country, amid criticism from some Republicans and concern from allies and some U.S. military commanders.
In early morning tweets, Mr. Trump said he was fulfilling a promise from his 2016 presidential campaign to leave Syria.
‘Time for others to fight’
Echoing a central plank of his foreign policy — that he seeks to stop the U.S. being taken advantage of — he said the U.S. was doing the work of other countries, including Russia and Iran, getting little in return.
“Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight,” he tweeted.
The U.S. is also ending its air campaign against the militants in Syria, officials said on Thursday. Mr. Trump had pledged to withdraw from Syria if elected, but the abrupt announcement on Wednesday to withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria caught U.S. lawmakers and others by surprise. The White House declined to offer a timeline for the departure.
Some of Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans strongly criticised the move, saying that it strengthened the hand of Russia and Iran, which both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Trump’s move also drew criticism from some U.S. allies, including Britain and France, which said the IS had not been defeated and that its troops would remain in Syria. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday welcomed Mr. Trump’s decision and said he largely agreed with Mr. Trump that the IS militants had been defeated.