WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US President Donald Trump flew to Iraq on Wednesday to meet with US troops stationed at Al Asad Airbase, a joint US-Iraqi military base in western Anbar province.
US service members enthusiastically welcomed Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton.
In addition to greeting the troops, Trump met with senior US military leaders, including the head of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, as well as the outgoing US ambassador to Iraq, Douglas Silliman.
A scheduled meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, however, was cancelled. No reason was given, although on Monday, Abdul-Mahdi criticized the decision to withdraw from Syria, as he suggested it could well have negative consequences for Iraq.
While he was in Iraq, Trump affirmed that he had “no plans at all” to withdraw any of the 5,000 US troops who are stationed there.
Trump’s surprise visit came a week after his controversial decision to withdraw US forces from Syria. It also came amid a US government shutdown and a stock market that suffered considerable losses on Monday, the day before the Christmas holiday.
However, the stock market rebounded on Wednesday, with its biggest point gain in history, and Trump’s trip to Iraq addressed those critics who said that he should have visited US troops stationed abroad over the holidays.
While at Al Asad, Trump reaffirmed his decision on Syria to reporters accompanying him. He had given “the generals” multiple “extensions” to get out of Syria, and this time, he had rejected their request, Trump explained.
You’ve had enough time. We knocked them out, Trump reportedly said.
Trump went on to state that he had had good talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and claimed that Erdogan also wanted to fight the Islamic State, reaffirming his view that Erdogan would do that.
There are questions, however, about Turkey’s ties to the Islamic State and strong suspicions that in the past, at least, Ankara has supported the terrorist organization.
Moreover, it is not clear that Syria and Russia will accept that Turkish forces replace US troops in Syria. Those two countries both maintain that all foreign forces not invited to be in Syria by the regime should leave.
Nonetheless, Trump affirmed his view, “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world.”
“We are spread out all over the world,” he continued. “We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”
Trump left Washington shortly before midnight on Christmas, December 25, arriving in Iraq in the early evening of December 26. He spent several hours there, before leaving for Germany, where he will also meet US troops.