President Trump defends his Syria pullout on surprise Iraq visit

President Trump flew to Iraq yesterday to make his first visit to US troops serving abroad as he sought to defend his decision to wind down the war against Islamic State in neighbouring Syria.

Mr Trump was accompanied by his wife, Melania, rather than his defence secretary, Jim Mattis, who resigned last week after the president’s decision to pull US forces out of Syria. Mr Trump announced the rapid withdrawal against the advice of some senior aides and commanders on the grounds that the United States had “won against Isis”.

The president and the first lady left for the Al Asad base on Christmas DayJONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Yesterday, at al-Asad airbase in the west of Iraq, he tried to justify the decision, which has drawn fierce bipartisan criticism. However, in an apparent recognition that Islamic State is still a threat to security

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