John Kelly: Pulling out of Syria was a catastrophic idea

Former White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE on Saturday joined a chorus of bipartisan voices that have criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpLindsey Graham vows to not watch 'un-American' Trump impeachment hearings Televised impeachment begins: Are Democrats ready for their close-up? Trump goes on retweeting offensive ahead of public impeachment hearing MORE's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, calling it a "catastrophically bad idea." 

“I want to get out of the endless wars, too. The problem is, the other side, even if we wanted to surrender, will not take our surrender. They hate us because of who we are, the way we live our lives, the way we worship our God,” Kelly said Saturday at a political conference hosted by the Washington Examiner.

“What was working in Syria was that for very little investment, the Kurds were doing all the fighting, the vast majority of the dying, and we were providing intelligence and fire support assistance. And we were winning,” added the retired four-star Marine general. 

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The Examiner reported that Kelly, referring to the withdrawal as a “catastrophically bad idea,” echoed other criticism that the move lessened U.S. influence in the region. 

“It didn’t happen while I was there — and a couple of other people recently left the administration and then he went with his instinct,” Kelly said. “But it was, on a number of levels, the wrong thing to do and it has opened the way for the Russians to be very, very influential in the Middle East.”

The White House announced this month that the U.S. would remove troops from northern Syria. The pullout was followed by a military offensive by Turkey. 

Trump has defended the decision, citing a campaign promise to stop "endless wars." He also said this week that Turkey had agreed to a permanent cease-fire