President Trump made a surprise trip to Iraq on Wednesday defending his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria where they have been helping battle ISIS.
“We’re no longer suckers, folks,” President Trump told Troops at a base in western Iraq. “We’re respected again as a nation.”
The President made it clear that with U.S. military gains..he can withdraw 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria. During his first visit, Trump also said he has no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.
“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds. Eight years ago, we went there for three months and we never left. Now, we’re doing it right and we’re going to finish it off.”
He also went on to say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to wipe out “any remnants” of ISIS fighters left in Syria. America’s presence in Syria was not meant to be “open-ended.” Adding that other wealthy nations should pay for rebuilding Syria.
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“The nations of the region must step up and take more responsibility for their future,” said President Trump.
Trump’s trip to Iraq came a week after he surprised his national security advisers by announcing the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned following the announcement, and claimed the President’s decision rattled allies around the world, including in Iraq.
President Trump flew overnight from Washington, landing at an airbase west of Baghdad under the cover of darkness Wednesday evening. It is his first visit with troops stationed at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet members of the military at a hanger rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Here’s more on the story via Daily Mail:
Fifteen years after the 2003 invasion, the U.S. still has more than 5,000 troops in Iraq supporting the government as it continues the fight against remaining pockets of resistance by the Islamic State group. IS has lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria but is still seen as a threat.
Trump, who speaks often about his support for the U.S. military, had faced criticism for not yet visiting U.S. troops stationed in harm’s way as he comes up on his two-year mark in office. He told The Associated Press in an interview in October that he “will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary.” He later began to signal that such a troop visit was in the offing.
Trump had planned to spend Christmas at his private club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington due to the shutdown. It’s unclear whether his trip to Iraq was added after it became apparent that the government would be shut down indefinitely due to a stalemate between Trump and congressional Democrats over the president’s demand for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi recently said Iraqi troops could deploy into Syria to protect Iraq from threats across its borders. Iraq keeps reinforcements along its frontier to guard against infiltration by IS militants, who hold a pocket of territory along the Euphrates River.
Trump campaigned for office on a platform of ending U.S. involvement in foreign trouble spots, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Syria decision will ultimately affect all of the approximately 2,000 troops deployed in the war-torn country. The Pentagon is also said to be developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 American troops still serving in Afghanistan.