Trump visits US troops in Iraq for Christmas: Report

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Baghdad, Dec 27 (IANS) US President Donald Trump visited the US troops in Iraq to celebrate Christmas, the official Iraqiya television reported on Wednesday.

The state-run channel briefly said that Trump “denied any plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq,” reports Xinhua news agency.

As for his decision to withdraw US troops from neighbouring Syria, Trump said that “a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking,” according to the channel.

The channel said that Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived earlier at Ayn al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western province of Anbar after an overnight flight, where hundreds of US troops are stationed.

Trump left Iraq to Washington after the surprised two-hour visit without meeting with any Iraqi leaders, it added.

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The US House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on its twitter account that “Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit our troops and senior military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas.”

Trump’s visit to Iraq is his first since taking office nearly two years ago.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said that the US troops’ withdrawal from Syria would have negative impact on Iraq.

“We have discussed… the US decision to withdraw troops from Syria, because this has great repercussions on Iraq,” Abdul Mahdi told a press conference after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“If there is a security tension in Syria (by the US pullout), there will be a wave of migration, and Iraq will be one of the first countries to be exposed to such issue,” Abdul Mahdi said.

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“The terrorists may leave the Syrian territory and try to go to Iraq, and this also would have repercussions on our country,” Abdul Mahdi added.

He stressed that Iraq needs to take precautions from now so that it will not be affected.

The prime minister mentioned that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had informed him of the pullout of the US troops before the implementation of the decision, asserting that Pompeo confirmed that the US will continue to support Iraq in its war against terrorism.

Abdul Mahdi’s comments came two days after he held a phone call with Pompeo, who explained the details of the scheduled pullout from Syria.

Recently, Trump declared a plan to withdraw all US troops from Syria, citing the full defeat of IS militants in the country.

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These troops were part of a US-led coalition which has been fighting and conducting airstrikes against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria.

–IANS

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