American forces must remain in Iraq so the United States can keep a close eye on neighboring Iran, according to President Donald Trump.

He highlighted the importance of a key military base in Iraq that Trump said is crucial to surveil the Islamic Republic’s activities.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base, we might as well keep it. And 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 US president told CBS’ Face the Nation programme in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“We were in many, many locations in the Middle East in huge difficulty. Every single one of them was caused by the number one terrorist nation in the world, which is Iran.”

‘Do nuclear weapons’

When asked whether he planned to use American forces in Iraq to “strike” Iran, Trump responded: “No … all I want to do is be able to watch.”

The US president indicated the American military installation was also useful for monitoring developments in the wider Middle East.

Trump lashes out at US spy chiefs over Iran, North Korea and ISIL

“It’s perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East, rather than pulling up… We’re going to keep watching 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.”

It was unclear what military base the president was referring to.

Trump denounced intelligence failures on former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction” that led the administration of president George W Bush to invade the country in March 2003.

“Being in Iraq was a mistake … one of the greatest mistakes going into the Middle East that our country has ever made,” he said.

‘It’s time’

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, the US government launched a “global war on terrorism” beginning in Afghanistan a month later after the Taliban refused to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Trump also criticised the war Afghanistan in the CBS interview, noting the US is spending “more money than anybody’s ever spent in history” on a war, adding it’s “got to stop at some point”.

American and Taliban officials have highlighted progress in peace talks in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen if the United States’ longest war will soon be ended.

“We’ve been there close to 19 years and it’s time,” said Trump. “And we’ll see what happens with the Taliban. They want peace, they’re tired. Everybody’s tired.”

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