Trump defends Syria troop pullout during surprise visit to Iraq

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"We are substantially subsidizing the Militaries of many VERY rich countries all over the world, while at the same time these countries take total advantage of the USA, and our TAXPAYERS, on Trade", Trump tweeted Monday.

The exit of Mr Mattis, highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats alike, added to their concern over what they see as Mr Trump's unpredictable, go-it-alone approach to global security. For example, when Chuck Hagel was told to resign in November 2014, he stayed in office until Ash Carter was confirmed the following February. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, both previously said to be on Trump's short list, are also both out of the running.

"With me, hit hard instead by the Fake News Media".

In an interview with the Seattle Times, Tom Mattis, the older brother of soon-to-be-former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, recalled the phone conservation he had on Sunday after President Donald Trump made a decision to move up his brother's departure date to the beginning of the year.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who announced his resignation last week in response to President Donald Trump's plans to bring home troops from Syria and Afghanistan, wished troops a Merry Christmas.

The Pentagon on Sunday would only say that Mattis serves at the pleasure of the president. Mattis said that Trump deserved to have a defense secretary more aligned with his views.

In typical fashion, Trump said Saturday that the media was treating him unfairly over the Syria withdrawal decision.

Trump made the decision to withdraw US forces from Syria and pull out about half of the 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan, against the advice of his top aides and USA commanders.

Discussing the U.S. role in Syria this month, he had told journalists that "it would be reckless if we were just to say, 'Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now'".

"I think a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking".

Critics argue that the decision could undercut U.S. leverage in the region and undermine diplomatic efforts to the end the Syrian civil war, now in its eighth year.

Trump made the decision last week to withdraw United States forces from Syria and pull out about half of the 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan, against the advice of his top aides and U.S. commanders.

Just last week McGurk, a Barack Obama appointee whom Trump kept on, said "nobody is declaring a mission accomplished" in the battle against IS - just days before the president blindsided politicians and allies with his announcement of victory against the jihadist movement.

Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump's decision on Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target Kurdish fighters who were armed and trained by the U.S. and played a major role in the war against Islamic State (IS) militants, but are deemed terrorists by Ankara. "After many years they are coming home".