President Donald Trump acknowledged Monday that withdrawing American troops from the Middle East was not popular in Washington, DC, but recommitted his efforts to do so.
“I got elected on bringing our soldiers back home,” Trump said. “It’s not very popular inside the Beltway.”
The president spoke to reporters during a White House Cabinet meeting on Monday.
Trump said military companies like Lockheed probably did not appreciate his decision to withdraw from endless wars in the Middle East, but his supporters did.
The president recalled his rally in Dallas, Texas last week, where supporters cheered “Bring them home!” after he spoke about his actions to end the wars in the Middle East and bring the troops home.
“That was our largest cheer in Dallas,” he said.
Trump continues to defend his decision to withdraw troops from Syria despite overwhelming criticism from the foreign policy establishment in Washington, DC.
“It’s much tougher for me, it would be much easier to let our soldiers be there, let them continued to die,” Trump said.
The president mocked the political pundits on television who criticized his decisions, noting that he had watched them for 20 years defending the wars in the Middle East.
“I’ve been watching the same faces, they’re just a little bit older and a little bit grayer, I’ve been watching them for 20 years saying about the Middle East and they’ve been wrong on everything they ever said,” Trump said.
He recalled again his trips to Dover to receive the remains of soldiers killed overseas back home, his letters to parents of slain troops overseas, and his visits to Walter Reed hospital.
“For what?” he asked. “There are times to fight and there are times not to fight, there are times to be smart.”
He said that he appreciated the use of economic power to strong-arm foreign powers to prevent war in the Middle East.
“We have tremendous economic power, and we’re using our economic power, much more powerful in certain ways than playing with guns and much better for our country,” he said.
He told reporters that American troops were only supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, but that they had been deployed in the country for ten years.
“I’m the one — meaning it was me and this administration working with others, including the Kurds — that captured all of these people that you’re talking about right now because under President Obama it was a mess,” he said.
He indicated that he had no interest in staying longer to protect the Kurds.
“We never gave the Kurds a commitment that we’d stay for the next 400 years and protect them,” he said.
The president ordered troops to withdraw from Syria to Iraq, despite signaling openness to keep a few hundred troops in the region to protect the oil fields from terrorists and possibly help fund the Kurds.
The Kurds responded by throwing tomatoes and potatoes at military vehicles as American troops moved out of Syria.
He celebrated that American soldiers were not endangered during the entire conflict between Turkey and the Kurds in Syria.
“So far, there hasn’t been one drop of blood shed during this whole period by an American soldier,” he said. “Nobody was killed, nobody cut their finger, there’s been nothing.”