Trump defends Syria pull-out during surprise visit to Iraq

Geraldine Edwards
December 27, 2018

The American head of state has in the past sought to distance himself from the Iraq War and other foreign conflicts left behind by his predecessors.

Trump made the surprise visit to Iraq one day after Christmas along with First Lady Melania Trump.

The Iraq trip will also go some way to ending criticism over Trump's failure to meet soldiers on the ground, even as he repeatedly touts his support for the military in campaign rallies.

Fifteen years after the 2003 invasion, the USA 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.

In a surprise trip to Iraq, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to withdraw American forces from Syria where they have been helping battle Islamic State jihadists.

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According to AFP, the president spoke to troops and met with military leaders.

Mr Trump indicated he would not rush to nominate a new secretary to replace Mattis, the first defence chief in decades to resign over policy differences with the president.

"A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking", Trump said of his decision on Wednesday in remarks to a small group of reporters traveling with him. Many fear that the United States withdrawal could allow IS to regroup and strengthen, with Turkey more interested in fighting the Kurdish forces, which it sees as a danger to its own national interests.

Mieke Eoyang, Vice President of Third Way National Security, made the remarks moments after news broke that the president and first lady made the trip.

The drawdowns - and the abrupt way that they were announced - helped lead to the resignation of Trump's defense secretary, Jim Mattis, who has been one of the administration's key heavyweights.

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With most of its regular hosts off for the holidays, The Five's guest hosts were more critical of the president than the usual lineup.

But critics claim the fight against ISIS is not yet over, and slammed Mr Trump's decision to withdraw the troops.

While there has been no full-scale violence in Iraq since ISIL suffered a series of defeats a year ago, U.S. troops train and advise Iraqi forces still waging a campaign against the group. But in bringing troops home and declaring a formal end to the Iraq War, Obama fulfilled a pledge to voters to end a war that began under Bush.

Trump had previously faced criticism for not visiting troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

They and other officials warned Trump that leaving the region now would allow for ISIS, or another terror group, to regain a foothold. "If we see something happening with ISIS that we don't like, we can hit them so fast and so hard" that they "really won't know what the hell happened". But the President was insistent that the time had come for U.S. personnel to come home.

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