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Trump digs in on Syria decision as criticism ramps up home and abroad

Trump digs in on decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria, touting the ‘slow & highly coordinated pullout’ as criticism of his move ramps up both home and abroad

  • President Donald Trump said he discussed the ‘slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops’ from Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • He tweeted about his phone call with the Turkish leader
  • Trump is digging in on his decision to withdraw U.S. troops as criticism ramps up 
  • ‘I think he knows that he has made a mistake,’ GOP Sen. Bob Corker said 
  • French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Trump’s decision, saying ‘an ally must be reliable’ 

President Donald Trump on Sunday said he discussed the ‘slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops’ from Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as criticism of his decision ramped up both home and abroad. 

‘I just had a long and productive call with President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey. We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years they are coming home. We also discussed heavily expanded Trade,’ he tweeted on Sunday.

His move comes as some lawmakers from his own Republican Party were critical of his decision to pull the 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria.

President Donald Trump is digging in on his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria

‘Why are you still there?’ Turkish President Recep Erdogan asked President Trump during a call where Trump ditched a script and ended up promising a withdrawal from Syria 

He is defending his decision against ramped up criticism at home and abroad

‘We were going to leave Syria. But to leave it when you’re within a couple of months of doing something that is very important in the fight against ISIS and the president knows that, and we pull – jerk the rug out from under two months in advance, that’s hard to understand,’ outgoing Republican Sen. Bob Corker said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday. 

Corker has been one of the biggest Republican critics of the president’s decision. He was at the White House on Thursday, waiting to meet with Trump on the issue, when the president abruptly canceled the meeting before Corker could see him.  

The senator, who is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks Trump realizes he made a mistake with his Syria decision.

‘I think he knows that he has made a mistake. I do. The president’s tendencies are to dig in and double down even if he knows he did something incorrect. I don’t think he wanted to talk about Syria that day and so the meeting was called off. And in a that’s what happened,’ Corker said.

Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney said the decision would hand a victory to ISIS.

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‘I think he knows that he has made a mistake,’ GOP Sen. Bob Corker said of Trump’s decision on Syria

Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney said the decision would hand a victory to ISIS

‘I am deeply, deeply concerned and I oppose strongly the president’s decision apparently to withdraw troops from Syria. The apparent decision that- that we’re now going to be looking at withdrawing troops from Afghanistan,’ she said Sunday on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation.’ 

‘These two decisions would be disastrous. They would really, in many ways, hand the victories to our enemies to Iran, to ISIS in Syria, the Taliban, al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. It’s a very dangerous path to go down and we shouldn’t be going down it. We ought to make sure that we keep our troops there in order to prevent the establishment of safe havens from those groups that want to attack us.’

But hardline Republican Sen. Rand Paul applauded the president’s move.

‘I’m very proud of the president. This is exactly what he promised. And I think the people agree with him, actually. I think people believe we’ve been at war too long in too many places and we do need to turn attention to problems we have at home here. Roads, bridges, schools,’ he said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ 

And French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday criticized Trump’s decision, saying ‘an ally must be reliable’. 

But acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said there was little chance the president would change his mind.

‘No, I think the president has told people from the very beginning that he doesn’t want us to stay in Syria forever. You’re seeing the end result now of two years worth of work,’ he said on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ 

Trump shocked lawmakers on Capitol Hill and foreign allies last week when he announced plans to remove troops from Syria, where they have been helping coordinate a multinational fight against ISIS. 

Turkey applauded the move.  

Trump’s decision came after a private call with the hard-line president of Turkey where the president ditched a script crafted by his aides and was told allies fighting alongside the U.S. were terrorists.

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Trump’s decision, saying ‘an ally must be reliable’.

But Republican Sen. Rand Paul backed Trump’s decision in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper

The fateful call occurred Friday, according to multiple press accounts, just as Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan publicly saber-rattling about a campaign to wipe out U.S.-allied Turkish forces in northeastern Syria.

The U.S. has relied on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria to take out ISIS elements in a multi-year military campaign that Trump cheered on Twitter Friday.

On the call, Erdogan was able to seize control of the conversation by pointing to U.S. military success, saying the U.S. had already defeated 99 per cent of ISIS. 

When he asked Trump ‘Why are you still there?’, it prompted Trump to pass on the query to his own security advisor, John Bolton, who was monitoring the call.

Sources on the call said Trump ‘quickly capitulated’ and yielded to Erdogan’s withdrawal demand, the Associated Press reported. 

Trump has swiped at critics of his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria by saying if anyone else brought soldiers home they would be branded a ‘hero’.

In a series of fiery tweets Saturday night, the president also dismissed the top U.S. envoy in the fight against ISIS as an ‘Obama appointee’ who he claimed he did not know.  

President Donald Trump (left) Saturday dismissed special envoy Brett McGurk (right) has an ‘Obama’ appointee’ who he didn’t know and was set to stand down a month from now. This follows McGurk’s decision to quit his role two months earlier than expected

Trump said he had an ‘interesting relationship with Mattis and he had given him resources 

Trump launched a tirade on Twitter (pictured) against top US officials who resigned within days of each other after they disagreed with his decision to pull troops out of Syria 

Earlier Saturday, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk announced his resignation in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and just days after Mattis’s announced departure.  

McGurk was to leave the role in February but moved up his departure date by two months to December 31 after very publicly stating that the move to pull American forces at this time could result in a ‘possibly catastrophic outcome’. 

Responding to the news , Trump tweeted: ‘Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. 

‘Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!.

‘If anybody but your favorite President, Donald J. Trump, announced that, after decimating ISIS in Syria, we were going to bring our troops back home (happy & healthy), that person would be the most popular hero in America. With me, hit hard instead by the Fake News Media. Crazy!

The veteran diplomat, who got his start in the administration of George W. Bush and was appointed to his current post by Barack Obama, now joins Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security officials.

Trump also fired a parting shot at Mattis, the most respected foreign policy official in the administration who will leave by the end of February.  

He tweeted: ‘When President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. 

‘Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should. Interesting relationship-but I also gave all of the resources that he never really had. Allies are very important-but not when they take advantage of U.S’.

President Donald Trump (2nd L) and Secretary of Defense James Mattis (2nd R) participate in a moment of silence for the late President George H. W. Bush as they attend the Army-Navy game in early December

The former United States Marine Corps general commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He later served as the Commander of United States Central Command under Obama.  

Trump announced on Sunday Mattis would leave his administration on January 1 instead of Feb. 28 as originally planned.  


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