- President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets on Monday morning lambasting critics.
- He appeared to be responding to criticism of his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
- Trump has backed away from his claim that the terrorist group ISIS had been defeated, and it’s unclear whether or when US troops will actually be pulled out.
In a flurry of tweets early on New Year’s Eve, President Donald Trump lashed out at criticism of his recent decision to withdraw troops from the campaign against the terrorist group ISIS in Syria.
“If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became President, they would be a national hero. ISIS is mostly gone, we’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants,” Trump said in one tweet, again softening his earlier claim that the group had been defeated.
“I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places,” Trump added. “Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working. Just doing what I said I was going to do!”
He added in another tweet: “Except the results are FAR BETTER than I ever said they were going to be! I campaigned against the NEVER ENDING WARS, remember!”
Trump’s reference to “failed Generals” appears to be a response to comments by Stanley McChrystal, a 34-year Army veteran and retired general. (Other former US generals have criticised Trump in recent days; John Kelly, the outgoing White House chief of staff and retired Marine general, differed with Trump on some issues in an interview this weekend.)
In an interview on Sunday with ABC, McChrystal said he didn’t think Trump “tells the truth” and, when asked if he thought Trump was immoral, said, “I think he is.”
McChrystal was head of Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, overseeing the effort to kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
McChrystal took command of forces in Afghanistan in summer 2009 but was relieved in mid-2010 after some of his staff members were quoted as disparaging senior US civilian officials in a Rolling Stone story. He was also criticised for his handling of the death of Pat Tillman, an NFL player who became an Army Ranger and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
In the ABC interview, McChrystal was asked about the withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria, where they have been assisting partner forces fighting ISIS.
Describing a renewed Russian presence and an increased Iranian presence in the region, McChrystal said a US pullout would be likely to lead to more instability, “and of course it will be much more difficult for the United States to try to push events in any direction.”
“There’s an argument that says we just pull up our stuff, go home, let the region run itself,” McChrystal added. “That has not done well for the last 50 or 60 years.”
“I don’t believe ISIS is defeated,” he said when asked about the group. “I think ISIS is as much an idea as it is a number of ISIS fighters. There’s a lot of intelligence that says there are actually more ISIS fighters around the world now than there were a couple of years ago.”
That lingering presence didn’t mean the US and its partners hadn’t done well against the group in Iraq and Syria, he added, “but ISIS is an idea, and as long as the fertile ground exists – the causes that cause people to flock to a movement as extreme as ISIS exists – you’re going to have it flare back up again.”
Trump says the US can’t be the ‘policeman’ of the world
Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria was announced suddenly on December 19, and he was widely criticised for the move.
Even those opposed to a protracted US presence in Syria or who were supportive US withdrawal took issue with the apparent haste of the decision, which is said to have come as a surprise to US officials and allies.
Trump has said that the US can’t “be the policeman of the world” and that the presence in Syria was not meant to be “open-ended.” During a surprise trip to Iraq the day after Christmas, Trump said “the generals” had asked him for more time in Syria and that he told them “nope” because “we’ve knocked them silly.”
The decision also appeared to be the final straw for Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who announced his resignation days afterward.
What ultimately happens with US personnel in Syria remains unclear, however. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday said he had met with Trump and characterised the withdrawal as being “in a pause situation.”
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