Iraqi president takes aim at Trump over using country to watch Iran

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"Trump did not ask us to keep USA troops to watch Iran".

In an interview with CBS News, President Trump said "We've been there for 19 years, almost, we are fighting very well".

"This only makes things worse... it's a foolish statement and it doesn't achieve anything and it also makes American troops vulnerable", he added, noting that U.S. soldiers are "very unpopular" in the country.

"We think that building strong relations with the USA for the benefit of the two peoples is important", said a senior Iraqi diplomat, who requested anonymity to speak frankly on a sensitive subject.

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the USA military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, Dec. 26, 2018.

In an interview with CBS television, Trump reaffirmed his determination to pull the U.S. out of "endless wars" in Syria and Afghanistan, but said U.S. troops would stay on in Iraq, partly "to be looking a little bit at Iran".

He said the troops would soon be moving to the huge Al Asad Airbase in Iraq's Anbar province and that their new tasks would include protecting Israel and keeping an eye on Iran, which his administration has accused of being the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and of wanting to acquire nuclear weapons.

Despite his assertion that the USA will return to Syria if needed, Trump is facing stiff opposition from 43 Republicans in the Senate over the pullout.

"Challenges to completely defeating ISIS in Iraq include the group's rural strength, its tunnels and safe houses, the continued trickle of foreign fighters, the difficulty in securing the Iraq-Syria border, and the lack of stability in Sunni areas", the report said.

"I was not consulted", he said, adding that he was broadly aware of Trump's "desire and an intent in the past to depart Syria".

Trump has said he has no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in Iraq, which he says could carry out US airstrikes inside Syria after American troops withdraw from that country.

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

Officially, Iraq says there are no USA bases on its soil - only instructors deployed at Iraqi bases.

"I was not consulted", said Gen Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, who warned that Islamic State will continue to pose a threat following a USA withdrawal.

"We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes".

Trump initially said the withdrawal would be rapid but the pace has slowed as military officials work out the logistics of the pull-out. We can come back very quickly, and I'm not leaving. The outlet also noted a "growing sentiment" held by Iraqis that US troops should go. Abdullah said that, despite this, the partial withdrawal of USA -led foreign forces would not spell the end of the world for Afghanistan.

Full quote: "We spent a fortune on building this incredible base", Trump told Face the Nation. "Iraq's constitution does not allow our territory of our country to be used against our neighbors", he explained.

"There is no USA base in Iraq", he said.

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