Trump's comments rile Iraqis, prompt troop pullout calls

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The US Senate approved by a large majority Monday an amendment critical of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, in a sign of the deep discontent caused by the policies within his own Republican ranks.

In an interview on the CBS network, Mr Trump spoke of the "endless wars" in Syria and Afghanistan and made clear he wanted to reduce the costly USA military presence in those countries, despite warnings against such moves from his military advisers and spy chiefs.

According to the constitution, Hakim said, Iraq must not threaten the security and stability of the region and the world.

In August, the Pentagon published another inspector general report which said the USA military estimates that ISIS has as many as 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.

The US could rely heavily on intelligence work in Afghanistan, he said, and respond to developments in Syria from US bases in neighbouring Iraq.

The Pentagon's own internal watchdog released a report on Monday saying Isis remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than Syria.

On Monday, several Iraqi officials and politicians said the effort to expel the US forces is gaining momentum following Trump's comments during a CBS interview. He also slammed the notion that the U.S. has a base in Iraq, reminding the world that the military bases in Iraq are Iraqi and foreigners are there as guests only. "We might as well keep it", he said.

All I want to do is be able to watch.

The troop withdrawals vote came as part of a broader debate over USA policy in the Middle East, and legislation that would specifically allow localities to refuse to do business with organizations that boycott Israel.

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He appeared to be referring to the Al-Asad air base in western Iraq, where he paid a brief visit to USA forces in December.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said at the time that the American president's visit had broken conditions set by Baghdad.

Iraq's government plays a delicate balancing act between its two main allies, Washington and Tehran, which are bitter enemies. Curbing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in Iraq after parliament elections in May in which Shiite militias backed by Iran made significant gains.

Votel said on Tuesday that the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that will continue to fuel a menacing insurgency.

"I was not consulted", the general said.

IS militants have lost territory since Trump's surprise announcement in December that he was pulling USA forces out, but military officials warn the fighters could regroup within six months to a year after the Americans leave.

Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee, now under Democratic control, plans a February 6 hearing to examine US counter-terrorism operations more broadly, with testimony expected from Owen West, the Pentagon's assistant secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and Air Force Maj.

The group includes USA terror-designated militias, such as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr organization, and Iran-friendly parties such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. 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.

Abadi further called on the government to affirm Iraq's unshakable stance that "Iraqi territory can not be used against any neighboring country or any party". "We are not proxies in conflicts outside the interests of our nation". 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".

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