President Trump on Monday defended his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northeast Syria, saying “it’s time” to bring them home despite widespread criticism from Republican allies and Kurdish fighters who say they’ve been put in harm’s way.
The hardest part of his job, he said, is signing letters to the parents of American soldiers who don’t make it home.
“I hate it,” he said. “We make them personal, but no matter what you do it’s devastating.”
Mr. Trump said he campaigned on ending U.S. involvement wars abroad and the military is “not a police force.”
Instead, he said, it’s time for European powers to take back Islamic State fighters who were routed from caliphate territory in Iraq and Syria.
He also said that Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq are responsible for securing their Middle East “neighborhood.”
“Let them take care of it, let them take care of it,” he said. “We want to bring our troops back home.”
Mr. Trump is facing massive blowback to his decision to withdraw, however, with critics saying he’s left allied Kurds to be slaughtered by their Turkish rivals.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Mr. Trump to “exercise American leadership” and avoid a conflict between NATO ally Turkey and the Kurds fighting Syria.
The president chafed at his critics during a White House event on trade, saying the U.S. would never leave the Middle East if you accept their position.
He also accused President Obama of accelerating a “natural war” between Turkey and the Kurds, their longtime enemy.
“They’re still there and hating each other beyond anyone’s belief,” Mr. Trump said.
Later Monday, Mr. Trump said he warned Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan not to overstep after the U.S. leaves.
“I hope he’s going to treat everyone with great respect,” Mr. Trump said during a White House briefing with senior military leaders.
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