Trump mulls leaving intelligence in Afghanistan after withdrawal of troops

Charlene Craig
February 5, 2019

"If the United States 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 usa special forces colonel.

"I don't like endless wars", Trump said in a CBS Face the Nation interview on February 3, after he surprised USA lawmakers and worldwide allies last month by announcing he was withdrawing all 2,000 US troops from Syria. "But certainly it's something that's on the - it's an option", Trump said when asked about the possibility.

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the military at a hangar rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Dec. 26, 2018.

Target on their backs: With his comments, the president has telegraphed to U.S. foes that theAmerican troop presence at Al-Asad could be used to interdict Iranian movement in the region.

"That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which is a very important part of the world". He stressed that recovering territory from ISIS is not the same thing as completely eliminating the terrorist organization, which will always have "pockets" of activity from which it can launch occasional terror attacks. "So, I think the process is playing out - very, very big tremendous protests".

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The U.S. national security establishment reacted with alarm earlier this month after reports broke out about Trump's plans for an immediate and total withdrawal of troops from Syria, as well as a drawdown of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. "Trump is speaking from the hip, if you like, he is speaking off the cuff, and it might be what he's saying is actually a little bit closer to the truth of where the American strategy actually lies".

During a recent visit to Iraq, Trump said he had no plans to withdraw USA troops from Iraq. He told CBS that he doesn't have to agree with the assessments of the intelligence community, pointing to mistaken reports of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.

Trump's latest statements further dismayed even strong supporters of an active American presence in the country. "And we've spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East and we have lost lives". "But you're not going to keep armies there because you have a few people".

"The U.S.is a major power. but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here", he stated, and added, "It is of fundamental interest for Iraq to have good relations with Iran" and its other neighbors.

There is already concern that Trump's comments will encourage some Iraqi politicians, especially those with close ties to Iran, to push more strongly for the approximately 5,200 US troops to leave Iraq.

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"I'll leave intelligence there and if I see nests forming, I'll do something about it", Trump said.

Syrian schoolchildren walk as USA troops patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria Nov. 4, 2018. ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria.

The BBC's Paul Adams says this poses a problem for the government in Baghdad and could complicate delicate negotiations over U.S. use of the Al Asad Airbase.

"This is the process working the way it was meant to, for the (president) to raise these issues and then discussions take place", Risch said.

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