Less than a day after President Donald Trump bragged to supporters at a campaign-style rally in Minnesota Thursday that he was working hard to bring U.S. soldiers home from foreign wars, the Pentagon announced Friday that 1,800 troops and advanced weapons systems have been ordered to Saudi Arabia—a move critics decried as both hypocritical and deeply dangerous.
“This is a dangerous escalation of a crisis created by the president’s inability to conduct a coherent and sensible foreign policy and his reliance on the war hawks who profit from endless war,” advocacy group Win Without War said on Twitter.
The announcement came 24 hours after the president tweeted that he was “trying to end the ENDLESS WARS” and told the crowd at his Minnesota rally that he was resisting elements of his administration insistent on keeping the U.S. military in the Middle East.
“I have all these people that want to stay,” said Trump. “They want to stay. And I don’t want to stay.”
The Moment of the Night
You can hear the anger in President Trump's voice when he talks about the people demanding we keep our men in the Middle East.
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) October 11, 2019
The deployment is the latest increase to a total 14,000 U.S. soldiers newly arrived in the Middle East this year as Trump moves closer to war with Iran.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the deployment in a statement to reporters at the Pentagon Friday.
"Taken together with other deployments, I've extended or authorized 14,000 additional U.S. forces to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." pic.twitter.com/6OAvUArLsN
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) October 11, 2019
Trump’s move to increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia struck a number of observers as another example of the president’s incoherence and hypocrisy, especially in context of the president’s decision on Monday to pull U.S. forces in northern Syria back to allow Turkey to invade and attack the Kurds in the region.
“Remember when Donald Trump tweeted that he was ‘trying to end the endless wars?’ That was yesterday,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of the frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, said on Twitter. “Today he’s sending thousands of troops, warplanes, and missiles to his dictator friends in Saudi Arabia to escalate military tensions with Iran.”
Remember when Donald Trump tweeted that he was "trying to end the endless wars?" That was yesterday.
Today he's sending thousands of troops, warplanes, and missiles to his dictator friends in Saudi Arabia to escalate military tensions with Iran. https://t.co/3OuxvgRwDf
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 11, 2019
The decision also has the potential for danger to the region and the U.S., said The Nation‘s Jeet Heer.
“Trump is only using the rhetoric of ending endless wars.”
—Trita Parsi, Quincy Institute
“The combination of stationing USA troops in Saudi Arabia and greenlighting Turkey’s invasion of Syria (which could lead to imprisoned ISIS warriors being freed) could be explosive,” Heer said.
Historically, as the Daily Beast‘s Spencer Ackerman noted sarcastically, deploying U.S. troops to the Middle East has come with problems.
“Fun fact: the presence of U.S military personnel in Saudi Arabia prompted Osama bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war,” said Ackerman.
The president’s words just don’t line up with reality, said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
“Trump is only using the rhetoric of ending endless wars,” Parsi said. “In reality, he’s not ending anything.”