Trump defends US withdrawal from Syria, says others must fight

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his surprise decision to declare victory over IS fighters and completely withdraw US troops from Syria, amid criticism from some Republicans and concern from allies and some US military commanders.
In a series of early posts on Twitter, Trump said he was fulfilling a promise from his 2016 presidential campaign to leave the Middle Eastern nation.
The United States was doing the work of other countries, including Russia and Iran, with little in return and it was “time for others to finally fight,” he wrote.
Trump announced on Wednesday that he would begin withdrawing the roughly 2,000 US troops from war-torn Syria, although the White House declined to offer a timeline.
Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans fiercely criticized the move, saying they were not briefed ahead of time and that the move strengthened the hand of Russia and Iran, which both support Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told Reuters that US commanders on the ground are also concerned about the impact of a quick withdrawal.
“Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there (sic) work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“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 added.
Meanwhile, France will keep troops in northern Syria for now because IS fighters have not been wiped out —contrary to the view of Washington — and continue to pose a threat to French interests, officials said.
France is a leading member of the US-led coalition fighting fighters in Syria and Iraq and has around 1,000 troops including special forces based in the north of the country, deployed alongside local Kurdish and Arab forces.
French diplomats told Reuters on Wednesday President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from the region had taken Paris by surprise. US officials justified the decision by saying IS State had been entirely defeated.
— Agencies