Last week, President Trump shocked many at a rally in Ohio by saying he expected to soon withdraw US troops from Syria. Tuesday, he doubled down on that declaration, telling reporters that he believes “it’s time” for the US to bring the troops home.
Exact timing isn’t clear, but Trump said a decision would come “very quickly,” and that he believes the fight against ISIS is almost complete. He added that he sees Syria as “a tremendous military success” and wants to bring troops back home.
While ISIS has lost materially all of its territory is Syria, and is no longer really the focus of any US operations on the ground, Pentagon and State Department officials have been suggesting for months that the troops would stay, transitioning to new military goals, including regime change.
Trump, however, is arguing that the US has been spending trillions of dollars in the Middle East since 2001, and has gotten nothing except death and destruction to show for it. So while many of the hawks he’s surrounded himself with are pushing back loudly against a pullout for any reason, Trump’s position seems to be a solid one, grounded in financial concerns.
This may be a defining decision for Trump, who has previously suggested his own instinct was to end the Afghan War, only to be talked into further escalation by his cabinet. In Syria, he may finally be standing firm on his own position, as his advisers have been pushing against the pullout for months, and Trump is still publicly in favor of it.