US President Donald Trump has complained he is getting “bad press” for his decision to pull American troops out of Syria.
Earlier this month, Mr Trump abruptly announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing 2,000 US troops from the war-torn country.
He said Islamic State militants are “mostly gone” and he’s “slowly” sending American servicemen and women back to their families. A withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan also appeared to be in the works.
The decision was roundly criticised by his national security advisers and Democratic and Republican lawmakers. It prompted US defence secretary Jim Mattis to resign and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell signed a letter with other Republican senators urging Mr Trump to reconsider.
“I am the only person in America who could say that, ‘I’m bringing our great troops back home, with victory,’ and get BAD press,” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday. “It is Fake News and Pundits who have FAILED for years that are doing the complaining. If I stayed in Endless Wars forever, they would still be unhappy!”
Critics not only warn of a resurgence of Islamic State, but worry that the American exit is a betrayal of US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria and leaves them vulnerable to an attack from Turkish forces.
Turkey considers the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which now controls nearly 30% of Syria, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders. Other critics feared an abrupt withdrawal.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a backer of Mr Trump and leading voice on national security and foreign affairs on Capitol Hill, had lunch with the president on Sunday and emerged from the White House saying that Mr Trump was slowing down the withdrawal from Syria.
“I think we’re slowing things down in a smart way,” Mr Graham said, adding that Mr Trump was very aware of the plight of the Kurds.
Mr Trump on Monday reiterated that he was slowly withdrawing troops.
Mr Trump tweeted: “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. 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”
“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. Just doing what I said I was going to do!”