- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2019

President Trump on Tuesday night stood firmly by his decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, telling the American people that he vowed to be a different kind of commander in chief and is following through on that promise.

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Trump defended his policy of bringing American forces home from the Middle East, where they’ve been at war for nearly two decades.

“Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years. In Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives,” the president said. “More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded. We have spent more than $7 trillion in fighting wars in the Middle East.”

“As a candidate for president, I loudly pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he continued.

Late last year, Mr. Trump abruptly announced that the U.S. would pull all of its 2,000 troops from Syria, where American forces had been aiding in the fight against the Islamic State. The move, coupled with a reported decision to cut in half the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, sparked a major bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill and led directly to the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, who had privately lobbied Mr. Trump to change his mind.

The president argued that the American military had accomplished its mission in Syria, and that the Islamic State — also known as ISIS — had been defeated.

He made that case again on Tuesday evening.

“When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Just two years ago. Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters,” he said. “Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.”

Despite the president’s position, top military officials in recent days have said that the terrorist group is far from defeated. ISIS is estimated to still have thousands of fighters. Leaders at the Pentagon have warned that the organization is morphing into a more covert group that is likely to focus on plotting terrorist strikes around the world.

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