In his first visit to US troops in a conflict zone, President Donald Trump drew cheers when he told troops he won them their first raise in 10 years and suggested it was a whopping one. The First Couple were on their way back from an army base in Iraq when they stopped to refuel and meet service members carrying MAGA hats who had waited up until 4am local time.
He also used the visits to build productive relationships with Iraqi senior officials, including then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. We've knocked them out.
"We don't want to be taken advantage of any more by countries that use us and use our incredible military to protect them".
"We are spread out all over the world", the president said.
Trump told reporters he had overruled generals asking to extend the Syria deployment, where about 2,000 USA forces, joined by other foreign troops, assist local fighters battling the Islamic State jihadist group. "The United States can not continue to be the policeman of the world", he repeated to reporters, describing a long-term vision of detached isolationism embodied by his controversial decision last week to pull thousands of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
Falih Khazali, a former militia leader turned politician allied with Bina, accused the United States of wanting to increase its presence in Iraq. He said Ain al-Asad could be used for USA air strikes inside Syria. On the one hand, he still wants to demonstrate the intention to abandon the role of global policeman with the subsequent mission where American blood is spilt for the sake of a country, about which majority can't find on a map.
Trump said on December 26 that he has no plans to reduce that number.
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His earlier visit to Al Asad base in Al Anbar, Iraq, was his first to USA forces in harm's way overseas.
The president was seen shaking hands with camouflage-clad personnel, signing autographs and posing for photos at the base.
But Trump stressed during his visit that he had no intention of pulling troops out of Iraq, which he said could be used as a future base "if we wanted to do something in Syria".
"We call on all the great Iraqi people to express their condemnation of the visit of the arrogant Trump and to demand lawmakers in the House of Representatives to issue a firm resolution to remove all foreign forces from the land of Iraq", Dawa party statement added. I know from firsthand experience - having served for three years in combat zones in the Middle East and South Asia - the extraordinary impact of a visit from the commander-in chief.
The Iraq trip provides some distraction from a rising tide of domestic political problems, including the government shutdown caused by Trump's row with Congress over funding for a US-Mexico border wall. Few in Iraq or elsewhere knew the USA president was in the country until minutes before he left again.
Certainly, the Iraq that Trump is visiting is in a very different neighborhood than the one that Obama visited in 2009.
A hasty departure of US forces would jeopardize such arrangements, said Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa. "The presence of U.S. forces reassures both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and strikes a balance between the Kurds and Turkey and the Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi triangle", he said.