Donald Trump defends withdrawal of forces from Syria during surprise Iraq trip

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While in Iraq, Trump spoke to military commanders and the United States ambassador and, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, they "came up with a powerful plan that will allow us to continue our path to total victory" over ISIS.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet military personnel at the dining facility during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq December 26, 2018.

Trump's visit comes after he pledged a major drawdown of U.S. military presence in Syria.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis tendered his resignation last Thursday over Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and draw down numbers in Afghanistan in addition to other differences.

Trump speaks to US troops in an unannounced visit to the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26.

"We want peace and the best way to have peace is through strength", Trump told troops wearing camouflage fatigues in a hangar as he concluded his visit. Once at the base, the president treated everyone to a heaping serving of the usual bravado and lies, claiming he was right to withdraw from Syria because ISIS has "been knocked silly" (defeating them will still take years) and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will finish mopping them up for us, without offering clear evidence he agreed to any such thing.

He added: "While maintaining the U.S. presence in Iraq to prevent an ISIS resurgence and to protect U.S. interests, and also to always watch very closely over any potential reformation of ISIS and also to watch over Iran".

The first indication that Trump was visiting with the troops overseas came Wednesday morning as aviation experts noted interesting activity about a mysterious US government plane. "I told Bibi. And, you know, we give Israel $4.5 billion a year". "Baghdad is much more safe than it has been for a very long time and the Iraqis are very confident that they can deal with ISIL within their own borders - but what really concerns them is Syria and that's where they are less confident".

US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq
US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq

The Trump administration's withdrawal plans, which USA military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan have not received yet, have caused worries in the region. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about.

The U.S. State Department said that a phone conversation would replace the meeting. Mattis had planned to leave at the end of February but Trump forced him to go on January 1 after his resignation letter.

There are some 5,000 USA soldiers in Iraq, compared to about 2,000 on the ground in Syria.

"So that's the way it is", Trump said, according to a White House transcript.

He cited worries about the safety of the First Lady, and said that's why he made the precautionary decision to arrive at night - to minimize visibility of his plane landing.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis and the USA envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group quit shortly after Trump's announcement.

Falih Khazali, a former militia leader turned politician allied with Bina, accused the U.S. of wanting to increase its presence in Iraq. Trump said, his voice rising over the troops' prolonged cheers.

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