Trump Questioned on Middle East Withdrawal in CBS Interview: ‘You’re Telegraphing Retreat’

Trump Questioned on Middle East Withdrawal in CBS Interview: ‘You’re Telegraphing Retreat’

"In other words, we had Iraq".

He added a small contingent of troops will also be kept in Afghanistan for "real intelligence" purposes.

"It's time", he said in the interview with CBS's Face the Nation.

Asked if that meant he wanted to be able to strike Iran, Trump said, "No, because I want to be able to watch Iran".

In the CBS interview, he played down the danger of an extremist resurgence but said "we'll come back if we have to". "All I want to do is be able to watch", Trump replied.

After disagreeing with his own US intelligence chiefs on their congressional testimony last week, President Trump maintained: "I have intel people, but that doesn't mean I have to agree".

After Trump made an unannounced visit to an air base in western Iraq in December, some Iraqi lawmakers pledged to draft a bill calling for the expulsion of American forces altogether, while others called for revising an agreement to significantly draw down the approximately 5,200 American troops in the country.

During his roughly three-hour visit, his first to troops in a combat zone, Trump broke tradition set by previous US presidents by not meeting with Iraqi leaders.

At present, approximately 5,200 United States troops are now based in Iraq.

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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet the military at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on December 26, 2018. ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria.

He said troops could keep an eye on Iranian activity from a base in Iraq, which he said the USA would not give up, though insisted he would not use it to attack the Islamic Republic. "We might as well keep it", was Trump's pithy summary of his view on the matter.

"Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues", Salih said of the US' growing tensions with Iran.

"All I want to do is be able to watch", Trump told "Face the Nation" anchor Margaret Brennan. His visit sparked outrage in Iraq when he failed to meet with any Iraqi officials.

American military presence in Iraq is a sensitive topic, and a reminder to Iraqis of the dark chapter in their country after the US-led invasion and occupation of their country in 2003.

Trump's comments appear to have further inflamed tensions in Iraq over the continued presence of USA troops after the defeat of the Islamic State group. "We won", he said in a video posted on Twitter. The report said that when USA troops withdraw, it is "unclear what would occur with the Manbij agreement".

Trump has looked to increase pressure on Iran to bring about what his administration has called a "change in behavior" regarding its weapons programs and its "destabilizing" activities in the region, accusations Tehran denies.

Speaking about the crisis in Venezuela, Trump said USA military intervention was "an option".

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