WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Monday that the US “never” should have withdrawn its troops from Iraq after invading that country in 2003.
Trump made his remarks at a White House meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi.
“We should never ever have left,” Trump told reporters after meeting alone with Al Abadi.
Trump thus went one step farther in his criticism of the 2011 withdrawal of US troops from Iraq after in the past saying that the withdrawal was made too early, that it was handled badly and that it should have been accompanied by seizing Iraqi oil.
During the election campaign, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of being the “founder of the Islamic State” terrorist group because of the vacuum left in Iraq by the US troop withdrawal, thus contradicting the position he espoused in 2011 when he had said in an interview that the US should have left that country sooner.
Trump also spoke with Al Abadi about the military campaign against the IS, and in particular about the offensive by Iraqi forces against the city of Mosul, which the US leader said is “moving along.”
The president promised that the Islamic State will be defeated and said that that is happening “right now” adding that many things are different from what they were five or six weeks ago.
The president took office on Jan. 20, exactly two months ago.
Trump also said that he spoke with Al Abadi about the 2015 nuclear agreement among the US, Iran and five world powers, saying, “One of the things I did ask is, ‘Why did President Obama sign that agreement with Iran?’ because nobody has been able to figure that one out.”
Al Abadi, meanwhile, said that he was seeking “more cooperation” with the US in the antiterrorism fight and thanked Trump for exempting Iraqi nationals from his revised immigration order, which now affected refugees and citizens of six other Muslim-majority nations but the implementation of which has been blocked by a judge.
Al Abadi said that Iraq has “the strongest counterterrorism forces, but we are looking forward to more cooperation between us and the U.S.”
Currently, the US has some 5,000 soldiers deployed in Iraq to assist and train Kurdish and Iraqi troops who have retaken part of the territory conquered by the IS in 2014, including the greater portion of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city.