Still facing criticism over the aftermath of his decision to withdraw a small U.S. military force in Syria, which allowed the Turkish military to invade areas along its border, President Donald Trump on Monday again defended his decision, saying the U.S. did not have any agreement to protect Kurdish groups in that region.
"We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives," the President told reporters during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
"I’m trying to get out of wars," Mr. Trump added.
In the Middle East, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper echoed the President's assessment.
“We had no obligation if you will to defend the Kurds from a long-standing NATO ally (Turkey)," Esper told reporters.
During a meeting with Cabinet members, Trump asked, "Where's an agreement that said we have to stay in the Middle East for the rest of humanity?" pic.twitter.com/2n1ss7927C— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) October 21, 2019
#Kurdish residents in the city of Qamishli block the path of the American forces withdrawing from northern #Syria and throw tomatoes at them following President Trump's order for the #US soldiers to retreat from the region - ANHA pic.twitter.com/PB513uC8ft— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) October 21, 2019
As U.S. military forces pulled back - moving into other regions of Syria, and across the border into Iraq - they were met with protests, as people threw tomatoes and rocks at American military vehicles.
"I understand the anger of Kurds," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted, as he said U.S. troops should be praised, and not insulted.
"They didn't make the decision to leave," Rubio said, without mentioning President Trump. "They were ordered to."
Asked about the possible release of Islamic State prisoners, and whether the group might be able to regroup with the U.S. gone, the President blasted the press.
"I'm the one who did the capturing. I'm the one who knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits," Trump says of ISIS to the media assembled in the Cabinet Room.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 21, 2019
President Trump on ISIS: "I'm the one that did the capturing. I'm the one who that knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits."— CSPAN (@cspan) October 21, 2019
Full video: https://t.co/wLZNzqvHVp pic.twitter.com/9N5lc4QCC9
Back in Congress, House Democrats set a hearing for Wednesday on the situation in Syria spurred by President Trump's decision to pull out U.S. forces near the Syria-Turkey border.
The witnesses will include three officials from the State Department; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not on the witness list.
While the President has said the troops in Syria were being brought home, it instead looks like the Pentagon is going to keep those military forces in Syria and Iraq for the time being - in order to deal with the Islamic State.
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