WASHINGTON – Rep. Justin Amash, who quit the Republican party after calling for President Donald Trump to be impeached, criticized Trump for using American troops as "paid mercenaries," arguing in an interview on "Meet the Press" that the president is reshuffling military personnel around the Middle East instead of following through on a pledge to bring American soldiers home.
“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He's just moving them to other parts of the Middle East," Amash, I-Mich., said.
"He’s moving troops back into Iraq, he's moving other troops into Saudi Arabia and using our forces almost as mercenaries, paid mercenaries who are going to come in, as long as Saudi Arabia pays us some money, it's good to go," he added.
Amash's comments come after Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters the troops departing northern Syria would head to Iraq to help fight against ISIS — and as Trump tweeted that he was "bringing soldiers home." Other U.S. troops are heading to Saudi Arabia, Trump said last week, to help defend the country after a September attack on an oil facility.
While Amash said American troops shouldn't have been in Syria without congressional approval in the first place, he panned the strategy surrounding Trump's decision to withdraw troops from the region as lacking in foresight.
Turkey began a military operation in northern Syria days after the announcement, clashing with Kurdish fighters in the region before a brief pause was announced.
"He could have prepared in advance for the obvious consequences. He certainly knew what Turkey would do, and then he acted surprised they are coming in and committing acts of violence," Amash said Sunday.
"You don't wait 'til after withdrawing the troops to make a plan to go pressure Turkey to ease up and then call for a ceasefire," he added.
Earlier this month, the White House announced that it would move forces from the "immediate area" as Turkey began a "long-planned operation into Northern Syria." Days later, the Pentagon accelerated that move by pulling another 1,000 troops out of the region amid fighting between the Turks and the Kurds.
That announcement sparked bipartisan condemnation from members of Congress who warned America was ceding influence in the region and that the move could end up playing into the hands of terrorist groups like ISIS. The Kurds had been one of America's top allies in the fight against ISIS and reports say that ISIS prisoners are escaping amid the chaos.
Last week on "Meet the Press," former Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the withdrawal could lead directly to a resurgence of ISIS.