Published: Tue, February 05, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Trump wants to keep U.S. military in Iraq to 'watch' Iran

Trump wants to keep U.S. military in Iraq to 'watch' Iran

US President Donald Trump reaffirmed, in an interview airing Sunday, his determination to pull US troops out of "endless wars" in Syria and Afghanistan, but said they should stay in Iraq to watch Iran.

Iraqi President Barham Salih told a forum in Baghdad on Monday that the USA president had not asked for permission to use its base for such purposes.

When asked if he was keeping troops in Iraq because he wanted to launch a strike against Iran, Trump said: "No, because I want to be able to watch Iran".

CIA director Gina Haspel told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week of ISIS: 'They're still risky, ' adding that they still command 'thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria'.

In an interview with CBS News' "Face the Nation", he said USA troops in Iraq were also needed to monitor Iran.

The Ain al-Asad military base in Iraq to which Trump was referring was almost the site of a deadly attack over the weekend. "We might as well keep it", he said.

"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", he said. "We might as well keep it", he said, referring to Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq that he visited in December.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. If U.S. troops are not on the ground in Syria, counter-terrorism analysts fear Americans access to those intelligence streams may dry up.

Opponents included every senator considering a 2020 presidential run, and four Republicans, who said US foreign policy needs a rethink.

It called upon the Trump administration to certify conditions had been met for the groups' "enduring defeat" before any significant withdrawal from Syria or Afghanistan.

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Although ISIS is no longer in control of any major city in Iraq or Syria, the fighting is not over completely.

Iraqi lawmaker Sabah al-Saadi, a member of parliament in the bloc led by influential anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, has proposed a bill demanding a US pullout.

According to the Pentagon, while USA -backed Syrian forces have continued the fight to retake the remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria, ISIS remains a "potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that could likely resurge in Syria absent continued counterterrorism pressure", the report reads.

However, he said "Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to be watching with intelligence".

"And also, there doesn't seem to be right now the equipment there to give us the ability to conduct strategic-level intelligence gathering", Hertling added.

In the CBS interview Mr Trump defended his recent decision to withdraw the 2,000 USA troops deployed in neighbouring Syria to support a Kurdish-led militia alliance seeking to capture the last pocket of IS territory there.

"All parties need, as soon as possible, to stop the USA presence and not allow Iraq to be used as a springboard for aggression or surveillance of any state", the statement read.

In response, Pentagon officials said the group was "well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge".

And, he said if al Qaeda and other terrorist groups grew in strength, US forces would return to the region. Iraqi military personnel discovered and managed to defuse three Grad rockets pointed at the base set with electronic timers.

Iraq's former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who had strong backing from the U.S, also voiced opposition to Trump's comments, tweeting, "Iraqi sovereignty must be respected". He also slammed the notion that the United States has a base in Iraq, reminding the world that the military bases in Iraq are Iraqi and foreigners are there as guests only. "Iraq's constitution does not allow our territory of our country to be used against our neighbors", he explained. "We are not proxies outside the interests of our nation".

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