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Trump implicitly criticizes Stanley McChrystal in New Year’s Eve tweets



In a flurry of tweets early on New Year’s Eve, President Donald Trump lashed out at criticism of his recent decision to withdraw troops from campaign against ISIS in Syria.

“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,” Trump said in one tweet, again softening his earlier claim that the terrorist group ISIS had been defeated.

Read more:Trump says he has ‘no plans at all’ to withdraw US troops from Iraq during his first visit to troops in a combat zone

“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!” he tweeted.

He added in another tweet, “Except the results are FAR BETTER than I ever said they were going to be! I campaigned against the NEVER ENDING WARS, remember!”

Trump holds a “Make America Great Again” hat while he and first lady Melania Trump greet military personnel during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, December 26, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump’s reference to “failed Generals” appears to be a response to comments by Stanley McChrystal, a 34-year Army veteran and retired general. (Other former US generals have criticized Trump in recent days; outgoing White House chief of staff and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly differed with Trump on some issues in an interview this weekend.)

In an interview Sunday with ABC, McChrystal said he didn’t think Trump “tells the truth” and, when asked if he thought Trump was immoral, said, “I think he is.”

McChrystal was head of Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, overseeing the effort to kill Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Read more:What Stanley McChrystal learned from Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq before leading the operation to kill him

McChrystal took command of forces in Afghanistan in summer 2009 but was relieved in mid-2010 after some of his staff members were quoted disparaging senior US civilian officials in a Rolling Stone story. (McChrystal was also criticized for his handling of the death of Pat Tillman, an NFL player who became an Army Ranger and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.)

In the ABC interview, McChrystal was asked about the withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria, where they have been assisting partner forces fighting ISIS.

US Marines fire mortars in support of Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Syria, September 2018.
Cpl. Gabino Perez/USMC

Describing a renewed Russian presence and increased Iranian presence in the region, McChrystal said a US pull-out would likely lead to more instability, “and of course it’ll be much more difficult for the United States to try to push events in any direction.”

“There’s an argument that says we just pull up our stuff, go home, let the region run itself,” McChrystal added. “That has not done well for the last 50 or 60 years.”

Read more:Jim Mattis’ brother says he had ‘no anger’ about being forced out by Trump

“I don’t believe ISIS is defeated,” McChrystal added, when asked about the group.

“I think ISIS is as much an idea as it is a number of ISIS fighters. There’s a lot of intelligence that says there are actually more ISIS fighters around the world now than there were a couple of years ago,” he said.

That lingering presence didn’t mean the US and its partners hadn’t done well against the group in Iraq and Syria, he said, but “ISIS is an idea, and as long as the fertile ground exists — the causes that cause people to flock to a movement as extreme as ISIS exists — you’re going to have it flare back up again.”

Retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, right, onstage at The New York Times New Work Summit, March 1, 2016
John Medina/Getty Images for New York Times

Trump says the US can’t be the ‘policeman’ of the world

Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria was announced suddenly on December 19, and he was widely criticized for the move.

Read more:Trump says ‘the generals’ asked for more time in Syria, but he said ‘Nope’ because ‘We’ve knocked them silly’

Even those opposed to a protracted US presence in Syria or who were supportive US withdrawal took issue with the apparent haste of the decision, which reportedly came as a surprise for US officials and allies.

Trump has said the US cannot be the “policeman” of the world and that the presence in Syria was not meant to be “open-ended.” During a surprise trip to Iraq the day after Christmas, Trump said “the generals” had asked him for more time in Syria and that he told them “Nope” because “We’ve knocked them silly.”

The decision also appeared to be the final straw for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who announced his resignation days later.

What ultimately happens with US personnel in Syria remains unclear, however.

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