Trump slows Syria pullout but claims ‘hero’ status
Xeber24.net – The Guardian
US presidents tweet troops ‘slowly’ being sent home amid report that several months will be allowed for drawdown
Donald Trump has appeared to water down plans for an immediate pullout of US troops from Syria, even as he defiantly claimed that his achievements in the conflict should make him a “national hero”.
The tweeted comment on Monday came the day after a senior Republican senator said the US president had promised to stay in Syria to finish the job of destroying the Islamic State group – days after he shocked allies, and his own military establishment, by saying troops were coming home.
“If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an Isis-loaded mess when I became president, they would be a national hero,” he tweeted.
“Isis is mostly gone, we’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting Isis remnants,” he said.
Later on Monday, the New York Times reported that unnamed military officials said the president would allow around four months for troops to be drawn down, a stark contrast to his original and sudden announcement of an immediate withdrawal.
The new estimate has now been denied and a Pentagon spokesman told the US newspaper: “I’ll let the president’s words speak for themselves.”
About 2,000 US forces and other foreign troops are in Syria to assist local fighters battling Isis, the jihadists who once controlled a “caliphate” covering much of Iraq and Syria.
The US-led coalition launched its first raids against Isis in September 2014, more than two years before Trump won the US election. US-backed forces seized the jihadis’ de facto capital of Raqqa on 17 October 2017.
Trump announced his Syria pullout by saying “We’ve won against Isis,” even though thousands of the group’s fighters are thought to remain in Syria after the collapse of their caliphate.
Military and security experts said Trump was overstating the case, and warned against a hasty withdrawal.
In Afghanistan, Trump also wants to bring home about half of the 14,000 soldiers locked in a war against Taliban guerrillas, but no formal announcement has been made on that move.
Trump’s troop drawdowns triggered the resignation of his defence secretary, Jim Mattis, who had long one of the chaotic administration’s steady hands.
On Sunday, the Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who had expressed concern about Trump’s pullout, emerged from a two-hour lunch meeting with the president to say Trump “understands the need to finish the job”.
“I think the president is committed to making sure when we leave Syria that Isis is completely defeated,” Graham said.
Another prominent critic of the pullout was the retired US army general Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, who on Sunday told ABC’s This Week that a US pullout would be likely to cause “greater instability” in the region.
Trump tweeted on Monday: “I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places. Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working.”