Washington: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday confirmed his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and said that his country cannot be the world’s policeman in a surprise visit to troops deployed in Iraq.
Trump made his remarks to reporters after arriving with first lady Melania Trump about 7:16 pm local time at Al Asad airbase in western Iraq on his first trip as president to visit troops stationed abroad, Efe reported.
The president defended his decision to withdraw US troops from neighbouring Syria, where some 2,000 soldiers are deployed as part of an international coalition fighting the Islamic State terrorist group, and he said that he was not giving US generals any more extensions of the deployment to continue to degrade the IS and work out the logistics of leaving the Middle Eastern country.
“(The generals) said again, recently, can we have more time? I said, ‘Nope.’ You can’t have any more time. You’ve had enough time. We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly,” said Trump, according to a pool report.
He emphasized that he had held very good talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he said also wants to deal a harsh blow against the IS and he said he expected the Turkish leader would do so, along with others.
“We’re no longer suckers, folks,” Trump told the troops, warning that he is committed to bringing home US troops from foreign wars even over the objections of his administration’s experts.
“The US cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” Trump said. “It’s not fair when the burden is all on us, the US.”
He suggested that he was not worried about losing the ability to hit the IS, called ISIS by the administration, saying that “If we see something happening with ISIS that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard they really won’t know what the hell happened,” Trump said, according to Bloomberg News.
Trump also emphasized that his visit to the combat zone was to enable him to pay his respects to the “incredible troops” that the US currently has stationed in Iraq.
Trump had been scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdelmahdi, but that meeting ultimately was cancelled.
“Melania and I were honoured to visit our incredible troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!” said Trump on Twitter.
Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, Trump greeted more than 100 soldiers assembled at the Al Asad airbase, shaking hands with several of them who extended their hands to him and who responded to him by chanting “USA!”
Trump and the first lady had travelled to Iraq in secret to share Christmas with US troops stationed in the Arab country, the White House said on Wednesday.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Wednesday on Twitter that the president and his wife Melania traveled to the Middle Eastern country to thank the troops and the military command tasked with the mission in Iraq “for their service, their success and their sacrifice” and to “wish them a Merry Christmas.”
“President Trump and the First Lady travelled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas,” tweeted Sanders.
Local media emphasized that this is Trump’s first visit to a combat zone since taking office in January 2017.
Trump has been the target of criticism for breaking with the Christmas tradition begun in 2002 according to which US presidents visit the country’s troops to celebrate the holiday.