Saturday, 24 August, 2019

Trump acknowledges security concerns over Iraq visit

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive to speak to members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq Trump, wife make secret visit to Iraq
Patty Aguilar | 27 December, 2018, 09:40

President Donald Trump greeted USA troops at an armed forces base in Germany after making an unannounced visit to US soldiers stationed in Iraq, his first presidential visit to service members in a troubled region.

The president chose to mention the stand-off in his address to the military.

"We're no longer the suckers, folks", Mr Trump told American servicemen and women at a base in western Iraq.

Mr Trump will have to continue this fight upon his return to the White House.

"You can't have any more time".

He left behind a partially shut down U.S. government to greet troops helping hold off extremists in a country where thousands of Americans died during the recent war.

Iraq trips by United States presidents and other high-level Western officials to Iraq are usually shrouded in mystery.

It comes days after Defence Secretary Jim Mattis quit over disagreements about strategy in the region.

Trump's first visit to US troops deployed overseas came during the ongoing government shut-down in Washington, which began last week after the Trump Administration and Congress failed to agree over funding for a wall at the USA border with Mexico.

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.

The details of Trump and the First Lady's surprise trip to Iraq were embargoed on Tuesday and Wednesday for security reasons until the President had finished giving remarks to troops.

During his first visit to a troubled region, Mr Trump also said he has no plans to withdraw USA forces from Iraq.

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

In his resignation statement General Mattis said: "While the USA remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we can not protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies".

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

"America shouldn't be doing the fighting for every nation on earth, ' Trump told troops, adding that the USA wouldn't be helping to rebuild Syria".

"We won't get anything from America", said Baghdad resident Mohammad Abdullah.

Iraqi political and militia leaders have condemned US President Donald Trump's unannounced trip to Iraq as a violation of their country's sovereignty.

Islamic State, which once controlled swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, has been driven mostly into hiding.

In Afghanistan, Trump wants to withdraw about half of the 14,000 soldiers locked in a war against Taliban guerillas that has long resembled a stalemate. "I'm very proud of you", Melania told the crowd.

The president told Fox News' Chris Wallace at the time that he should have gone to Arlington, and he hasn't visited a combat zone because he has "had an unbelievably busy schedule", adding, "I will be doing it".

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.

Bill Clinton visited troops in Bosnia in 1996 and spent Thanksgiving with troops in Kosovo in 1999, while George H.W. Bush spent Thanksgiving with service members in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and New Year's Day with troops in Somalia in 1993.

US President Donald Trump greets members of the US military during a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, December 27, 2018.

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