Trump delivers remarks to US troops in an unannounced visit to Iraq
Trump delivers remarks to US troops in an unannounced visit to IraqReuters

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria during an unannounced visit to Iraq.

Trump said he had told his advisers "let's get out of Syria," but was persuaded to stay, before deciding last week to bring the 2,000 troops home.

"I think a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking. It's time for us to start using our head," the president told reporters at the Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, according to Reuters.

The base, in Anbar province, became one of the most important bases for US Marines after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Since US forces returned to Iraq in 2014, the base has played an important role in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) because of its location.

Trump said the United States would remain in Iraq, adding, "In fact, we could use this as the base if we wanted to do something in Syria."

The President announced last week that the American troops would leave Syria, citing the fact that ISIS had been defeated.

The controversial decision was followed by the resignation of Defense Secretary Mattis and of Brett McGurk, Trump’s special envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, according to some reports, was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections from virtually everyone involved in the fight against ISIS.

CNN earlier this week reported that Trump decided to withdraw from Syria following a conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A senior administration official who received a detailed readout of the phone call between Trump and Erdogan told the network that Erdogan was explaining all the problems with the US presence in Iraq and Syria and was irritating Trump.

According to the source, Trump said, "OK, it's all yours. We are done."

While in Iraq on Wednesday, Trump indicated he would not rush to nominate a new secretary to replace Mattis.

Trump said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, whom he named on Sunday to replace Mattis in an acting capacity starting on January 1, "could be there for a long time."