President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is ‘on the table’ MORE said Monday that Israel and Jordan had asked him to leave a limited number of troops in Syria.
He also said he doesn’t believe it will be necessary to leave U.S. troops in Syria except to secure oil fields, describing the region as “very dangerous territory.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be necessary. I don’t want to leave any troops there. That’s very dangerous territory,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting. “I don’t think it’s necessary other than we secure the oil. It’s a little different section, but we need to secure the oil.”
“The other region where we’ve been asked by Israel and Jordan to leave a small number of troops is a totally different section of Syria, near Jordan, and close to Israel,” Trump continued.
“And that’s a totally different section. That’s a totally different mindset. So we have a small group there, and we secured the oil. Other than that, there’s no reason for it, in our opinion,” Trump said.
Trump’s remarks came after Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump: ‘We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!’ Amash rips Trump over move to send troops from Syria to Iraq Defense chief says US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq MORE told reporters in Afghanistan that the U.S. was considering leaving some forces in Syria to ensure oil fields don’t fall into the hands of ISIS.
Trump, who has faced growing blowback over his decision to pull U.S. forces from northern Syria, continued to defend the move Monday, repeating his assertion that the Kurds are “no angels” while claiming only his administration had captured ISIS fighters in the region.
“As far as ISIS is concerned, when I took over, in November 2016, ISIS was all over the place. I’m the one — meaning it was me, and this administration working with others including the Kurds, that captured all of these people that you’re talking about right now,” Trump said.
Trump also lashed out at his predecessor, former President Obama, for not making enough gains against ISIS. The U.S.-led campaign against ISIS began in 2014, under the Obama administration.
“With President Obama it was a mess. And I was told and you were told and everybody told it would be years before you ever did what I did in about a month and a half after I started,” Trump said.
“I went over to Iraq, I met with our generals and we figured out a plan and it was done in a month and a half. But I’m the one who did the capturing, I’m the one that knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits.”
Trump also downplayed concerns that ISIS could resurge in Syria.
“ISIS is being held by the Kurds and I have an absolute commitment from Turkey that they are watching them just in case,” Trump said.
Trump has faced a torrent of criticism, including from Republicans, over his decision to pull U.S. forces from northern Syria amid an impending Turkish military operation there. Trump has been widely accused of greenlighting Turkey’s incursion, a notion his administration has rejected.
Trump has also been criticized for abandoning U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria who were a key ally in the fight against ISIS. Turkey has long regarded the Syrian Kurds as a terrorist group and earlier this month launched a military operation in Kurdish-controlled Syrian territory.
Trump on Monday defended his administration’s assistance to the Kurds but said the U.S. had given “no commitment” to protect the Kurds “for 400 years.”
“We helped the Kurds, they’re no angels, but we helped the Kurds,” Trump said in the Cabinet Room.
Trump championed the cease-fire deal brokered by his administration between Turkey and Syria, claiming it is “absolutely holding” after both sides accused the other of breaching the agreement.