Nearly a week ago, Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned, saying that he will step down in February after the president decided to move U.S. troops out of Syria, which was a decision he made without consulting his security officials and one that Mattis absolutely could not stand by and support.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump took an unannounced trip to Iraq, and continued to defend his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria despite much criticism. Regarding Mattis’ job, Trump told reporters:
‘Everybody and his uncle wants that position. And also, by the way, everybody and her aunt, just so I won’t be criticized.’
Although Mattis had said he would stay until February, Trump went ahead and announced that Patrick Shanahan, deputy defense secretary, would take the job on Jan. 1. He said he was in “no rush” to nominate a new defense chief.
According to U.S. News & World Report:
‘Trump, making his first presidential visit to troops in a troubled region, said it’s because the U.S. military had all but eliminated IS-controlled territory in both Iraq and Syria that he decided to withdraw 2,000 forces from Syria. He said the decision to leave Syria showed America’s renewed stature on the world stage and his quest to put “America first.”‘
Trump told U.S. servicemen and women at al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq:
‘We’re no longer the suckers, folks. We’re respected again as a nation.’
Trump’s decision to pull U.S. forces from Syria stunned national security advisers and U.S. allies. It was not surprise that after their resignations, neither Defense Secretary Mattis nor the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic extremist group were on the trip. Although ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory in Iraq and Syria, it is still seen as threat.
U.S. News reported:
‘Iraq declared IS defeated within its borders in December 2017, but Trump’s trip was shrouded in secrecy, which has been standard practice for presidents flying into conflict areas.’
Trump spoke with the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on the phone although he did not meet with any Iraqi officials. According to U.S.News:
‘The two major blocs in the Iraqi parliament both condemned the visit, likening it to a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.’
Those who have criticized Trump’s exit from Syria, say that:
‘(It) would provide an opening for IS to regroup, give Iran a green light to expand its influence in the region and leave U.S.-backed Kurdish forces vulnerable to attacks from Turkey.’
As he was welcomed by chants of “USA! USA,” and speakers blaring Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA,” the president told troops:
‘I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds.’
‘We’ll be watching ISIS very closely. We’ll be watching them very, very closely, the remnants of ISIS.’
Trump also said that after U.S. troops in Syria return home, Iraq could still be used to stage attacks on IS militants. He said:
‘We can use this as a base if we wanted to do something in Syria. If we see something happening with ISIS that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard” that they “really won’t know what the hell happened.’
Trump’s policies have increasingly been seen as isolationist, and he campaigned for office on a platform of ending U.S. involvement in foreign trouble spots, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, the Pentagon is developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 American troops still serving in Afghanistan.
Featured image is a screenshot from YouTube