Trump defends withdrawal from Syria: 'Do we want to be there forever?'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE early Thursday defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, saying it was "no surprise" and asking if the nation wants to be in the war-torn nation "forever."

"Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer," he said in a tweet.

"Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there [sic] work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA"

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Trump one day earlier announced the sudden and immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. His decision came without consulting Congress and apparently caught the Pentagon off guard.

The move was sharply criticized Wednesday by a number of Senate Republicans. 

“This is chaos,” Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Graham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Graham pushes back on Mattis criticism of Trump: 'You're missing something here, my friend' MORE (S.C.), a staunch Trump ally, told reporters after the announcement. He said earlier in the day that withdrawing the troops would be an “Obama-like mistake.”

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOn The Trail: Crisis response puts Trump on defense, even in red states If we seek resilience, we need liberty, not nationalism GOP senator blocks bill giving flexibility to small-business loans but says deal near MORE (R-Fla.) called it a "terrible decision" and outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) called it “in many ways even worse” than the withdrawal from Iraq by Trump's predecessor. 

Trump in a tweet earlier Thursday, however, shared quotes from GOP Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill Rand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill Democratic senator to offer amendment halting 'military weaponry' given to police MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Facebook employees speak up against content decisions | Trump's social media executive order on weak legal ground | Order divides conservatives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US GOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown MORE (Utah), the latter of whom said "this is the opposite of an Obama decision."

Trump in a subsequent tweet asked if the U.S. wants 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?" he asked

The president also claimed that Russia, Iran, Syria and "many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says."

Those countries, Trump said, would now have to "fight ISIS and others" without the U.S. 

Russia, however, praised the decision on Wednesday, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying it could lead to a solution in Syria.

"A milestone story which might evolve from this decision is a real prospect for a political solution," Zakharova said. 

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Trump first suggested an imminent withdrawal from Syria in March, making a seemingly off-the-cuff remark during a speech about infrastructure that the United States will “be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.”

"I want to get out. I want to bring those troops home,” he reiterated days later.

But in April, he agreed to leave U.S. troops there until ISIS was defeated, though he was said to have given the military a six-month timeline to do so.

In announcing the decision Wednesday, Trump and the White House claimed victory over ISIS in Syria.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump wrote in a tweet after reports of his decision emerged.

The White House said in its own statement that the U.S. "has defeated the territorial caliphate."

"These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added.

Updated at 7:29 a.m.