Friday 19 July 2019

US troops to stay in Iraq to watch Iran: Trump

Trip: US President Donald Trump and son Barron en route to Florida for the weekend. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP Photo
Trip: US President Donald Trump and son Barron en route to Florida for the weekend. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP Photo

David Millward

The United States will keep troops in Iraq in order to "watch" Iran, Donald Trump said yesterday.

Mr Trump said he wanted to maintain a military presence in the country even though he had repeatedly described the original decision to invade Iraq as one of the "greatest mistakes" ever made by the US.

"We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it," the US president said in a wide-ranging interview on 'Face the Nation', the CBS flagship political programme.

"One of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem."

The base, he said, was perfectly situated for looking across the whole of the Middle East.

"We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do."

Mr Trump has faced criticism over his foreign policy after alarming senior Republicans with his determination to disengage from the Middle East and Afghanistan.

However, he reiterated his unhappiness with costly wars in Syria and Afghanistan as he sought to clarify and justify his approach.

In December, he announced he was pulling 2,000 troops out of Syria against the wishes of James Mattis, his then defence secretary, who quit in protest.

In the 'Face the Nation' interview, Mr Trump said he had asked for Mr Mattis to resign because he was unhappy with his performance.

"He resigned because I was very nice to him. But I gave him big budgets and he didn't do well in Afghanistan," he said.

He was non-committal over the timescale for withdrawing troops from Syria because of the US commitment to protecting Israel.

Mr Trump, who has been a critic of America's involvement in Afghanistan, confirmed that some troops would remain, but did not state how many. "I'll leave intelligence there. Real intelligence, by the way. I'll leave intelligence there and if I see nests forming, I'll do something about it."

At the same time, he hinted that he was hopeful a peace deal could be negotiated with the Taliban.

"We've been there close to 19 years. And it's time. And we'll see what happens with the Taliban. They want peace. They're tired. Everybody's tired.

"We'd like to have - I don't like endless wars. This war. What we're doing has got to stop at some point."

Mr Trump's determination to reduce America's presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan and his scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal flies in the face of the advice he has been given by the US intelligence establishment.

He was unrepentant over his decision to ignore his intelligence experts, who said Iran complied with the deal.

"I disagree with them 100pc. It is a vicious country that kills many people," Mr Trump said.

"So when my intelligence people tell me how wonderful Iran is - if you don't mind, I'm going to just go by my own counsel."

He blamed the intelligence services for the US involvement in Iraq, claiming that they "didn't know what the hell they were doing". ( Daily Telegraph, London)

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