Trump Angers Iraqi Leaders & Citizens as He Visits Troops on the Ground

Saul Loeb—AFP

President Donald Trump's surprise trip to Iraq may have quieted criticism at home that he had yet to visit troops in a combat zone, but it has infuriated Iraqi politicians who on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of US forces.

"The men and women stationed at Al Asad have played a vital role in the military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria", Trump said inside a hangar in Iraq, earning cheers from a crowd of uniformed troops gathered to hear his remarks. The President and military leaders had "come up with a powerful plan", she told reporters, "that will allow us to continue on a path to total victory".

A scheduled meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was scrapped and they only talked over phone. The couple walked amid troops, posing for selfies and signing autographs. We give Israel 4.5 billion a year.

Prior to the visit, Trump had faced criticism for breaking with an annual tradition since 2003 of presidents visiting troops deployed overseas around the Christmas holiday.

The trip, shrouded in secrecy, came during a partial government shutdown and less than a week after Trump announced plans to withdraw all troops from Syria and about half from Afghanistan.

Iraqi MPs told Reuters news agency that Mr Trump had asked for the meeting to take place at the al-Asad military base, an offer declined by the prime minister. "We've knocked out about 99% of the caliphate (caliphate is the Islamic State's dream realm)", he had said.

"We don't want to be taken advantage of any more by countries that use us and use our incredible military to protect them".

Still, the US and Iraq developed considerable military and intelligence ties in the war against IS, and they continue to pay off in operations against militants gone into hiding. We are spread out all over the world. 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. "Frankly, it's ridiculous", Trump added.

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So was his national security adviser, John Bolton. I said, "Nope". You can't have any more time. "First time in 10 years", he said.

Mr Trump has said he would travel to Afghanistan at some point.

The Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba said the presence of United States forces in Iraq was a "violation of the country's sovereignty" and it was "now the duty of the government to expel American forces".

Asked about U.S. troops in Iraq, a little over 5,000, the president said, unequivocally, he had no plans of pulling them out yet.

Although Trump has previously addressed U.S. troops stationed overseas, including in Italy, Japan and South Korea, he has drawn criticism for not yet visiting those deployed to combat zones. His shock decision to remove 2,000 United States soldiers from Syria sparked anger with some Republicans, Democrats and across the globe when it was announced this month.

"But if you would have seen what we had to go through ... with the darkened plane, with all windows closed, with no lights on whatsoever; pitch black ..."

"I've been on many airplanes".

"I had concerns for the institution of the presidency, not for myself personally", he said.

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