Trump: 'Great nations do not fight endless wars'

By Tony Bertuca / February 5, 2019 at 10:30 PM

President Trump during his State of the Union address tonight announced new efforts to conclude U.S. military operations in the Middle East, but provided few details.

"Great nations do not fight endless wars," he said, noting the United States has been fighting in the Middle East for 19 years at the cost of nearly 7,000 American lives and $7 trillion.

Trump said it is time to give U.S. soldiers deployed to Syria a "warm welcome home" now that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is nearly wiped out.

Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier today Trump has set no "specific conditions" for withdrawal and he is "under no pressure to be out by a specific date."

Meanwhile, Trump said he has "accelerated" negotiations to reach a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

"As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counterterrorism," he said. "We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace."

Trump's plans to wind down the wars in the Middle East are being met with skepticism in Congress, even among those in his own party. The Senate on Monday approved an amendment put forth by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that says ISIS remains a serious threat to the United States and warns "a precipitous withdrawal" from Syria and Afghanistan would allow ISIS to regroup and continue to destabilize the Middle East.

Trump also touched on his decision to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, with an implied threat to begin a new arms race.

"Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can't -- in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far," he said.