US President Donald Trump used his unannounced visit Wednesday to troops at the Al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad to defend his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
“The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” Trump said on his first troop visit to a combat zone since taking office nearly two years ago. His predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama both made surprise troop visits during their terms.
Trump was accompanied by national security adviser John Bolton, but few other senior officials. He traveled on Air Force One, accompanied by military jet escorts.
At the Al-Asad airbase, Trump spoke with about 100 mostly special forces personnel and separately with senior US military personnel.
Trump doubles down on Syria withdrawal
During his Iraq trip, Trump said he had “no plans at all” to remove US troops from Iraq, but defended his planned withdrawal from Syria, saying the US presence there was never meant to be “open-ended” and that sufficient military gains had been made against the “Islamic State (IS).
He again asserted that Turkey would take over the mission to get rid of remnant IS fighters in Syria.
Many fear that such a US withdrawal could allow IS to regroup and strengthen, with Turkey more interested in fighting the Kurdish forces, which it sees as a danger to its own national interests.
He also defended his “America first” policy of pulling back from multinational alliances.
“We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous,” Trump said.