A day after blindsiding members of his own party in Congress with a decision to withdraw U.S. military forces fighting against the Islamic State in Syria, President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his move, once more making the case that American troops should be on home soil, not embroiled in military action on the other side of the globe.
“Getting out of Syria was no surprise,” the President tweeted before sunrise on Thursday. “I’ve been campaigning on it for years.”
Mr. Trump started his day by quoting Senators known for their opposition to U.S. military involvement in Syria and other flashpoints around the world, as the President once more channeled a wing of the GOP which is at odds with Republicans who argue the best way to deal with Islamic terrorism is by confronting those threats overseas.
“I am happy to see a President who can declare victory and bring our troops out of a war,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has long condemned U.S. military adventures. “It’s been a long time since that has happened.”
But while the President made clear he was not going back on his decision in Syria, his actions drew loud rebukes from many in his own party in Congress, as they argued it would harm U.S. interests, allow the Islamic State to rebuild, and help bolster Russia and the Assad regime in Syria.
“This decision is a disaster,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who spared no words for the President in a Senate floor speech on Thursday night.
“The decision today by the President, and I think it was his alone, I think is disastrous to our own national security,” Graham added.
“We will remember this day as a major blunder,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who echoed Graham’s searing criticism, all but accusing the President of selling out Kurdish fighters in order to please leaders in Turkey.
“I honestly believe that this is a catastrophic decision for America’s national security interests,” Rubio added.
“Why are we doing this?” Rubio asked on the Senate floor, as he noted the excited reaction of the Russian Embassy in the United States.
Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi raised the specter of the President acting in a way which would benefit Turkey – whose authoritarian regime has been favored by Mr. Trump – and at one time was employing the President’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
“All Americans should be concerned that this hasty announcement was made on the day after sentencing in criminal proceedings began against the President’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who admitted that he was a registered foreign agent for a country with clear interests in the Syrian conflict,” Pelosi said.