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Trump pulls-back on Iraq pull-out, saying US troops need to keep an eye on Iran

US troops look set to remain in Iraq [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 February, 2019

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Donald Trump said he wants US troops to stay in Iran to 'keep an eye on Iran'.

US President Donald Trump has denied talk that American troops will be pulled from Iraq, due to threat from Iran over the border.

It follows reports that the US force in Iraq would soon be withdrawn from a key camp in western Iraq, al-Asad airbase, following a similar announcement in December by Trump regarding American troops in Syria.

Although the Islamic State group have been defeated on the battlefield in Iraq - and expected to be soon in Syria - Trump said other regional threats remain in consideration.

"One of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem," he told CBS.

"I want to be able to watch Iran," he said, but denied he had plans to strike Iraq's neighbour.

US forces were key to the defeat of IS in Iraq by Baghdad government forces and militias, but have had run-ins with Iraqi Shia militias in the country, including over the weekend. 

US forces have also helped the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces with the battle for the last IS outposts ongoing in eastern Syria.

Trump's allies and security experts have advised the president not to pull American troops out of Syria yet, due to the continued threat posed by IS.

They have also warned against a similar move in Iraq, where sleeper cells and insurgents have continued their attacks on government and civilian targets.

Some have also advised that the vacuum that would emerge after an American withdrawal would likely benefit Iran - a country Trump considers to be the major threat to US allies and interests in the Middle East.

"All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up."

He did not give a timetable for the planned American withdrawal from Syria and said that some would be stationed in the base in Iraq.

"Ultimately some will be coming home," he added. Over the weekend, US forces foiled a missile attack on the Ayn al-Asad air base in western Iraq.

Pro-Iran militias have also issued warnings against American forces in Iraq, while the US embassy in Baghdad was targeted with mortar fire last year. 

Washington blamed Tehran-linked militias for the attack and considered launching strikes on Iran in response.

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