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Abdul Mahdi clarifies why he didn't meet with Trump

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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive to speak to members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, Dec. 26, 2018
Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday that he was supposed to meet with the US President Donald Trump during his visit to Iraq, but the meeting was cancelled due to “disagreement over how to conduct the meeting,” the two leaders spoke by phone instead.

Hours after Trump’s 3-hour visit to greet his troops at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar, Abdul Mahdi’s office issued a statement saying that the meeting was slated to take place in Baghdad. The US said it was cancelled because of logistic and security issues.

Reuters reported that the disagreement was over the venue for the meeting. Trump had proposed Al Asad Air Base, where he met with US troops and senior military officers, but Abdul Mahdi rejected the suggestion.

In the phone conversation that substituted for the meeting, Trump invited Abdul-Mahdi to visit the White House, and he accepted.

No date has been given for the visit, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to meet Abdul Mahdi in Baghdad on January 11, Sanders said.

While at Al Assad Air Base, Trump affirmed his commitment to keeping US troops in Iraq.

Asked if he had any plans to pull US forces out of Iraq, Trump replied, “No plans at all”—in contrast to Syria, where he has ordered their complete withdrawal, and Afghanistan, where he has said that he will withdraw half the troops, bringing their number down to 7,000.

Trump also suggested that Iraq might be a location from which US forces could address troubles elsewhere.

“We could use this as a base, if we wanted to do something in Syria,” he said. “If we see something happening with ISIS that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and hard, they really won’t know what the hell happened.”

Trump also suggested that a US military presence in Iraq would allow the US “to watch over Iran.”
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