Trump declares end to U.S. policeman role in surprise Iraq visit

Saul Bowman
December 28, 2018

Trump made a surprise trip to al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq Wednesday, his first visit to troops in a war zone since becoming president.

He said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to take out "any remnants" of IS left in Syria.

Trump launched a full and accelerated pullout of the 2,000 USA troops in Syria last week, confirming the news in a tweet in which he wrote: "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency".

However, it was not only his political statements that stirred hot debate in the United States: another Boxing Day newsmaker was the First Lady, specifically her footwear choice and her kiss with the hubby, which some observers called "ridiculous".

Trump told reporters travelling with him that he wanted to remove U.S. forces from Syria but that Iraq could still be used as a base to launch attacks on ISIS militants. In the Kurdish region there were hopes for a Trump visit, even as there is criticism of the U.S. walking away from Kurdish areas in Syria.

He later added, "They had plenty of people that came up, they said, 'You know, we could make it smaller".

Apart from Trump's dishonesty about military pay raises, his trip was controversial because it prompted the Iraqi parliament to demand that U.S. troops leave the country. "We want to fight where it is meaningful", he said, noting that anyone who attacked America would suffer consequences like no one has suffered before.

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

The Russian senator recalled that Trump's decision to exit Syria served as grounds for the resignation of Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, who was apparently "more popular in Washington than Trump".

Air Force One touched down at the Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad after an overnight flight from Washington with first lady Melania Trump, a small group of aides and Secret Service agents, and a pool of reporters.

The president said that because of gains made against ISIS in Syria, US forces there were able to return home. Many fear that the U.S. 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.

John Bolton, Trump's neoconservative national security advisor, who sat a few feet from the President as he spoke in Iraq, had disapproved of the decision. He told The Associated Press in October that he "will do that at some point, but I don't think it's overly necessary".

Trump's visit was the first by a US president since Barack Obama met with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a USA base outside Baghdad in 2009. He later began to signal that such a troop visit was in the offing.

On Dec. 15, the USA -led coalition launched an airstrike in support of Iraqi troops who were chasing IS fighters toward a tunnel west of Mosul. Four militants were killed, according to the coalition.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi forces called in an airstrike by US -coalition forces to destroy a tunnel used by IS militants in the Atshanah mountains in north Iraq.

Trump´s visit appeared to take Iraqi authorities by surprise and prompted criticism including from former prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

While there he said he has "no plans at all" to withdraw troops from the country.

Trump campaigned for office on a platform of ending US involvement in foreign trouble spots, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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