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Trump, visiting troops in Iraq, defends Syria pullout plan

Trump, visiting troops in Iraq, defends Syria pullout plan

US President Donald Trump said he's not planning to take American troops out of Iraq as he made his first visit to an active combat zone.

They travelled there unannounced "late on Christmas night" to thank troops for "their service, their success and their sacrifice", it said.

Trump said it's because of United States military gains that he can withdraw 2,000 forces from Syria.

He abruptly made the decision on Syria last week, against the advice of top aides and commanders, including Defence Secretary James Mattis, who resigned the next day.

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

Talking to reporters, Trump defended his Syria decision and said people were going to eventually understand his reasoning.

Although the visit took place in considerable secrecy, speculation had been mounting that he might make such a trip following his decision to slash troop levels in Afghanistan and pull out entirely from Syria.

With most of its regular hosts off for the holidays, The Five's guest hosts were more critical of the president than the usual lineup.




Barack Obama visited Afghanistan four times as president, most recently in 2014, and also made a trip to Iraq shortly after his 2009 inauguration. The last US service member to die in Iraq was in August, as the result of a helicopter crash in Sinjar.

He voiced strong U.S. support to unite political factions in Iraq, including integrating minority Sunnis into the government.

During his visit, Trump said he had "no plans at all" to remove U.S. troops from Iraq, but defended his planned withdrawal from Syria, saying the USA presence there was never meant to be "open-ended" and that sufficient military gains had been made against the extremist group "Islamic State" (IS) there.

"It's not fair when the burden is all on us", he said.

Members of the military cheered as President Trump spoke at the rally. "It would have been helpful at the beginning if he had said, 'Look, we're getting out of Syria because we have plenty of resources in Iraq to deal with the ISIS problem". We've knocked them out.

Trump had planned to spend Christmas at his private club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington due to the partial government shutdown. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about.

Trump campaigned for office on a platform of ending USA involvement in foreign trouble spots, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. He said some troops "can now return home to their families".

In Afghanistan, he wants to withdraw about half of the 14,000 soldiers locked in a war against Taliban guerrillas that has long resembled a stalemate.

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