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.
"Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues", he added.
Full quote: "We spent a fortune on building this incredible base", Trump told Face the Nation. "It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up", he added.
"If the USA is perceived as being in Iraq not exclusively to assist the Iraqi forces in [the] fight against ISIS, it will strengthen the hand of those who oppose the U.S. presence", said David Witty, a retired United States special forces colonel.
Syrian schoolchildren walk as US troops patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria Nov. 4, 2018.
When asked if the troops stationed in Iraq could be used to strike Iran, Mr Trump responded: "All I want to do is be able to watch". "The U.S.is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here".More news: Bulls waive Carmelo Anthony, trade for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
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Iraq's president said USA troops were in Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State group and combat terrorism.
Speaking at a forum in Baghdad on Monday, Salih said Washington has never sought permission to use Iraq-based forces to monitor Iran and expressed surprise at the idea.
The New York Times reported the U.S. has been quietly negotiating with Iraq for weeks to allow USA special forces and support troops now operating in Syria to shift to bases in Iraq and strike the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) from there. An amendment from the congressional body said that Islamic State and Al-Qaeda still pose a threat to USA interests and that a U.S. withdrawal would "allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russian Federation".
In a report to Congress last week, U.S. intelligence leaders warned that IS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and they could easily spring back in the absence of USA forces.
One concern of Washington is that Iran is looking to build a crescent of influence spanning Iraq and Syria, reaching the Mediterranean. Qais al-Khazali, head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, also suggested US troops may eventually be driven out by force if they do not yield to the will of the Iraqi people. They want peace. They're exhausted.
He also also seemed to downplay his fierce criticisms of intelligence leaders, especially of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's Worldwide Threat Assessment.
Sabah al-Saadi, a member of parliament in the bloc led by influential anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, has proposed a bill demanding a USA pullout.