'The United States will keep troops in Iraq in order to “watch” Iran, Donald Trump said on Sunday.
Mr Trump said he wanted to maintain a military presence in the country even though he had repeatedly described the original decision to invade Iraq as one of the “greatest mistakes” ever made by the US.
“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it,” Mr Trump said in a wide-ranging interview on the CBS flagship political programme, Face the Nation.
“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.”
The base, he said, was perfectly situated for looking across the whole of the Middle East.
“We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.”
The US president has faced criticism over his approach to the Middle East, alarming senior Republicans over his determination to disengage from the region.
Mr Trump, however, reiterated his unhappiness with the endless and costly wars in Syria and Afghanistan as he sought to clarify and justify his approach to the region.
Just before Christmas, Mr Trump announced that he was pulling 2,000 troops out of Syria against the wishes of his defence secretary at the time, James Mattis, who quit in protest.
In the Face the Nation interview, the US president said he had asked for Mr Mattis to resign because he was unhappy with his performance.
“He resigned because I was very nice to him. But I gave him big budgets and he didn't do well in Afghanistan,” he said.'
Read more: Donald Trump will keep troops in Iraq to 'watch Iran'
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