(Fox News)

"Fox & Friends" keeps hammering White House officials over Trump's Syria withdrawal

Fox News' Brian Kilmeade called President Trump's move "classic America pull the foot off the throats early"


Shira Tarlo
December 24, 2018 5:46PM (UTC)

Brian Kilmeade, the host of President Donald Trump's favorite morning show, "Fox & Friends," continued to rip into the president over his abrupt announcement that he wants to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from war-torn Syria on Monday — a decision Kilmeade has warned in recent days would allow the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, to re-establish its reduced power.

In conversation with Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy on Christmas Eve, Kilmeade characterized Trump's decision as "classic America pull the foot off the throats early" that he argued will "make everyone's security more perilous."

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Kilmeade, who often defends Trump on television but has been one of the network's most outspoken critics of the president's decision, then said, "When ISIS is looked at as losing and we are putting heavy damage on them in a way that President Obama can only dream of, President Trump was doing huge damage and terror threat diminishes at home."

"We're not looking to settle a Syrian war. We almost lost the country of Iraq. They were outside Baghdad until we armed the Kurds and began providing intelligence and information for them," Kilmeade continued.

Kilmeade was just as blunt when speaking with a White House official on Monday

“Can you name an adviser the president has that recommended he pull out 2,000 troops?” Kilmeade asked White House spokesperson Mercedes Schlapp.

“I’m not going to get into the internal discussions of how the decision was made," Schlapp said, declining to answer the question. "At the end of the day, we all serve in the position of advising the president. It is up to the president to make the final decision.”

“We knew from the moment he started his campaign where he stood on Syria,” she continued, “and that was to ensure the defeat of the territorial caliphate in Syria — and the president and this administration and these troops have done that.”

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Trump's decision has prompted confusion and alarm in Washington and beyond. Just a day before Trump declared ISIS was defeated, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said, "We've made significant progress recently in the campaign ... but the job is not yet done." In addition, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who did not agree with Trump's thinking and decision on Syria, announced his resignation Thursday.

ISIS has lost significant territory it once held across Iraq and Syria and proclaimed its "caliphate." But multiple reports, including one from the Pentagon inspector general, suggested the group appeared to have bounced back from some of its setbacks and has between 20,000 to 30,000 militants in the region. In September, Mattis said, "Getting rid of the caliphate doesn't mean you then blindly say, 'OK, we got rid of it,' march out, and then wonder why the caliphate comes back. How many times have we seen — look at even Iraq where they're still on the hunt for them. And they're still trying to come back."

Kilmeade on Monday connected the sudden withdrawal of troops and Mattis' sudden resignation to the threat of terrorist attacks at home, citing the shooting in San Bernardino as an example.

"What President Trump has done is great. But what he is going to do early is a classic America pull the foot off the throats early and it's going to make everyone's security more perilous."

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In conversation with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday, Kilmeade said Trump is "giving Russia a big win. [Russian President] Vladimir Putin praised him. He's also doing exactly what he criticized President Obama for doing. He said President Obama was the founder of ISIS. He just refounded ISIS."

Trump, during the 2016 presidential campaign, accused former President Barack Obama of being the "founder of ISIS" because of the power vacuum critics contend Obama established after he withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. "He was the founder," Trump said at the time. "His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay?"

Kilmeade noted last week that ISIS still has thousands of fighters in the region despite the fact its power has been diminished due to a loss of territory across Iraq and Syria. 

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"The president is really on the griddle with this," Kilmeade said.

Trump, meanwhile, has attempted to walk back his claim that ISIS had been totally defeated, and suggested that other countries, including U.S. allies, will have to confront ISIS on their own.

"Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing? Do we want to be there forever? Time for others to finally fight," Trump wrote on Twitter.

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"Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us," Trump added. "I am building by far the most powerful military in the world. ISIS hits us they are doomed!"

 


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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