WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, who has ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, said on Wednesday that the United States should never have become involved in the Middle East.
At about the time that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was announcing the start of a military offensive targeting Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria, Trump said in a Twitter post that the wars in the region have gone on for hundreds of years.
“The United States has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East,” Trump tweeted. “Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded” in the conflicts in the Middle East.
Trump said “millions of people have died on the other side. GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE.”
The president criticized the war waged in Iraq by the 2001-2009 administration of President George W. Bush, who invaded that Middle Eastern country in 2003 on the grounds that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
No WMD were ever found in Iraqi despite the claims made by the Bush administration.
“We went to war under a false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were NONE! Now we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home. Our focus is on the BIG PICTURE! THE USA IS GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!” Trump said.
The United States “should have never been there in the first place!” Trump said, referring to the Middle East.
The president said he withdrew the 50 troops deployed in the area of Syria targeted by the Turkish offensive.
Trump retweeted a post by Sergio Gor, a member of the staff of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
“It’s expected that some in the GOP who took us into these endless quagmires in the Middle East are unhappy about ending wars, but where is the left? The silence is resounding. Silence is not always golden. @realDonaldTrump is doing the right thing & should have bipartisan support,” Gor tweeted.
On Sunday, Trump said he was pulling some US troops from Syria, where they had been working alongside the Kurdish forces.
Some 1,000 US troops are still deployed in northern Syria.
Trump said part of his reasoning for withdrawing the troops from Syria was that Turkey had agreed to take custody of the thousands of Islamic State (IS) prisoners in the region.
He denied he was abandoning the Kurds and said any “unnecessary” fighting from Turkey in the region would lead to US sanctions.
Turkey has twice previously invaded areas of northern Syria.
The US provided military backing and trained the People Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against the IS, but Ankara considers the militia to be a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a guerrilla group fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey.
In 2016, Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army seized areas of northern Aleppo province from both the IS and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Two years later, Turkish forces took control of Afrin province, a largely Kurdish area in northwestern Syria, from the SDF.
The SDF warned that another Turkish invasion could open up a new front in Syria’s complicated civil war.
Some 500,000 people, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have been killed in the war so far.