Trump said Monday that ending American military presence overseas was one of his two key campaign pledges -- besides building a wall -- and that he was intent to fulfill that promise despite facing opposition in Washington.
“We're bringing our troops back home,” he told a cabinet meeting at the White House. “I got elected on bringing our soldiers back home. Now, it's not very popular within the beltway because, you know, Lockheed doesn't like it. And these great military companies don't like it. It's not very popular.”
Earlier this year, a report from the Security Assistance Monitor project of the Center for International Policy found that the Trump administration in coordination with US weapons manufacturers made $78.8 billion in arms deals in 2018 alone.
A quarter of those deals involved the production of American weapons overseas, the report stated.
Trump said bringing back the troops was what his supporters asked him when he appeared before a large crowd of 25,000 during a campaign rally in Dallas on Thursday.
“When I said we're bringing our soldiers back home, the place went crazy,” the president said. “But within the beltway, you know, people don't like it. It's much tougher for me. Be much easier for me to let our soldiers be there, let them continue to die.”
He said “the most unpleasant thing” he has to do is meeting with the families of the soldiers who have been killed or sustained injuries while deployed abroad.
“I see that big cargo plane open and I see those coffins get rolled off,” he said.
He referred to his administration’s decision to redeploy forces from Syria to Iraq and said while he did not want to leave any soldiers behind, they should deploy elsewhere before returning to the United States.
"Well, they're going to be sent initially to different parts and get prepared. Then ultimately we're bringing them home,” Trump said.
In a major U-turn in the US military policy, the White House announced on October 6 that the US would be withdrawing its forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the path for an expected Turkish incursion into the region.
Three days later, Turkey launched the offensive with the aim of purging the northern Syrian regions near its border of US-backed Kurdish militants, whom it views as terrorists linked to local autonomy-seeking militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that the nearly 1,000 American troops pulling out of northeastern Syria following a military invasion of the area by Turkey would move to western Iraq.
News agencies reported that US troops had in fact crossed into Iraq from Syria through the Sahela border crossing in the northern province of Dohuk on Monday.
Footage was released of US armored vehicles carrying troops into Iraq, with Iraqi Kurdish sources confirming that American troops had crossed into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Trump has announced similar troop withdrawal plans for Afghanistan but his administration has yet to take a step towards fulfilling that promise.