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Democratic Hopefuls Quietly Endorse Trump's Middle East Withdrawals

06 February 2019

Trump's intelligence chief has described the Hashd as the "primary threat" to the United States in Iraq.

The Republican president lamented "endless wars" in Syria and Afghanistan in an interview with CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday and made clear he wants to reduce the costly USA military presence in those countries despite warnings against such moves from his military advisers and spy chiefs. "They have the ability of coming back together if we don't", Votel told the panel.

The president added: "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".

The top commander of United States forces in the Middle East, General Joseph Votel, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he was not asked for his advice about a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria before President Donald Trump announced his decision.

Trump also said he wants to leave troops in Iraq, however, in order to keep an eye on the regime in Iran.

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Iraqi political and militia leaders had previously denounced Trump's December visit to Ayn al-Asad Airbase as a "blatant violation of Iraq's sovereignty".

The president said he planned to keep a small contingent of troops in Afghanistan for "real intelligence" purposes and said US forces would return to that country if necessary. In a tweet that same day, President Donald Trump declared, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency".

Trump abruptly tweeted plans for a US pullout from Syria in December, arguing that the Islamic State group had been defeated even though his intelligence chiefs have said it remains a threat. ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria.

Some Democrats had anxious Monday's vote could be seen as lending new legal backing to the 2001 authorization for the use of military force against al Qaeda - legislation that has since been stretched to cover US military intervention in more than a dozen countries, including Syria.

Trump announced in mid-December that he was ordering the withdrawal of the 2,000 USA troops in Syria. He also slammed the notion that the USA has a base in Iraq, reminding the world that the military bases in Iraq are Iraqi and foreigners are there as guests only. "We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes", he added. "We can come back very quickly". "Iraq's constitution does not allow our territory of our country to be used against our neighbors", he explained.

U.S. forces staying in Iraq to watch Iran
Meanwhile, as renewed American sanctions on Iran begin to bite, Tehran will rely more heavily on Iraq for trade. And, he said if al Qaeda and other terrorist groups grew in strength, USA forces would return to the region.

According to Sky News, Salih said, "Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues".

The Syrian Democratic Front is a Kurdish-led coalition of fighting forces that the USA military is helping to battle ISIS and other jihadist groups in Syria.

Shortly after announcing the pullout, the USA demanded Turkey guarantee the safety of the Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria when America leaves the region.

But Trump's comments to CBS could undermine those negotiations by inflaming fears among Iraqis that us military activity in Iraq will be aimed at checking Iran, and not defeating ISIL, the Times said.

U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003, and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

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Democratic Hopefuls Quietly Endorse Trump's Middle East Withdrawals