President Trump said Tuesday that ally Saudi Arabia might have to pay if it wants a continuing U.S. military presence in Syria.
“We’ve almost completed that task[of defeating ISIS] and we’ll be making a determination very quickly, in coordination with others in the area, as to what we’ll do,” Trump said during a White House press conference with leaders from three Baltic nations. “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision, and I said, ‘Well, you know, you want us to stay, maybe you’re going to have to pay.’”
The administration is set to make a decision on keeping troops in the war-torn country after nearly four years of war, and is now consulting with allies about the future, Trump said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had pledged an enduring presence in Syria last year as the U.S. and its allies remain on the verge of defeating the Islamic State there, but Trump has thrown the prior plans into doubt with calls to leave in recent days.
“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” Trump said.
The Saudis are long-time U.S. allies that are concerned about growing Iranian influence in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the region. The U.S. is now providing military aid to the kingdom in its proxy war with Iran in Yemen, but Trump stressed the costs of that aid at the briefing.
“We do a lot of things in this country, we do them for a lot of reasons, but it is very costly for our country, and it helps other countries a hell of a lot more than it helps us,” Trump said.
The Obama administration launched a war in 2014 against the Islamic State after the group flourished in the chaos of the Syrian civil war and then surged over the Iraq border in a bid to overtake Baghdad.
Critics blamed the growth of the group on the Obama administration’s decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011. But the return of troops also opened a new chapter in a long U.S. war that began with an invasion in 2003.
About 5,600 troops were assisting Iraqi forces against the Islamic State this year, though some are transitioning out to support Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy, and about 2,000 troops in Syria. Remaining ISIS fighters along the two countries’ border region are estimated at about 3,000.
Trump railed against the ongoing U.S. intervention in the Middle East and its growing cost, calling it a waste of resources.
“Think of it, $7 trillion over a 17-year period. We have nothing. Nothing except death and destruction. It’s a horrible thing. So it is time. It is time,” he said. “We were very successful against ISIS. We’ll be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it is time to come back home. And we’re thinking about that very seriously.”
Source: Washington Examiner