Text of US President Donald Trump’s speech in Al-Asad, Iraq

Transcribed by SETH J. FRANTZMAN

US President Donald Trump visited Iraq on December 26. It had been in the works for several weeks, according to comments to reporters. The following is not a complete transcript, but key passages from the speech which went on for around twenty minutes. He made some impromptu additions to the text he was reading. I have added emphasis and highlighted some portions below.

It is because of your sacrifice that America’s families can celebrate in safety and peace back home, there are many incredible patriots to recognize and I’d like to start by saying a few words for [he then elaborates on several people and units who are present]

Col. Michael Maddox

201st regional support group

Task Force Thunder

434rd Air expeditionary squadron

1st expeditionary rescue group

3rd Cavalry regiment

Special Operations Joint Task Force

Camp Havoc

US Ambassador Douglas Silliman

Brig. Gen. Austin Rentforth

I want to personally thank you and every service member throughout this region for the near elimination of ISIS territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria. When I became president they were a very dominant group, today they aren’t so dominant anymore.

We will be watching ISIS very closely, the remnants.

We make the greatest equipment, you strike fear into enemies and bring comfort to allies. The best way to have peace is strength.

Success against ISIS

American and Coalition forces have had one military victory after another, including retaking of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, liberated more than 20,000 sq miles of territory, a lot, this was held by ISIS and liberated more than 3 million civilians from ISIS control.

The men and women at Al-Asad have played a vital role in the military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, because of these gains the service members in Syria can come home, some will come here. They will come home where they want to be with their families…originally they came here and it was supposed to be 3-4 months, that was many years ago, I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds, we are not nation building, rebuilding Syria will require a political solution paid for by rich neighboring countries, not the US, in fact Saudi Arabia yesterday stepped up to the plate and made commitment of substantial funds and Erdogan agreed to take out any remnants of ISIS, we are going to be working with them, our presence was not open ended or permanent, 8 years ago we went there for 3 months, and never left, now we are doing it right, one year ago I gave our generals 6 more months in Syria and it turns out it was a year and a half ago, they said they needed 6 months and they said they needed 6 more and they said they needed one more 6 month period, I said no, I said I gave you a lot and I said we are doing it a different way.

Clear objectives

The men and women who serve are entitled to CLEAR OBJECTIVES [emphasis added] and when they are met they can come home. Our objected in Syria was to retake the territory controlled by ISIS, and some say 99%, that’s a lot, now the nations of the region must step up and take more responsibility for their future, and they must confront the remnants, there will be a strong, deliberate and orderly withdrawal from Syria, deliberate and orderly while maintaining US presence in Iraq to prevent ISIS resurgence and protect US interests, and also to always watch very closely over any reformation of ISIS and also to watch over Iran. We’ll be watching.

No longer suckers

While American might can defeat terror on battlefield, each nation must decide for itself what kind of future it. Wants to build or its people and what kind of sacrifices, America shouldn’t be doing the fighting, not being reimbursed, if they want us to do the fighting they have to pay a price and that’s a monetary price, so we aren’t the suckers of the world, and I love you because you are nodding your heads, we are respected again. America is safer and peace is more possible because of the devotion of every patriot.

If they hit us on our homeland they will suffer consequences over here like no one has suffered before, hear loud and clear, that’s not a threat, that’s a fact, if that happens no one will suffer the consequences they will suffer, we will defend our homeland.

You’re warriors. You’re modern day warriors. I figured out the solution…to the wall…I’ll tell Nancy Pelosi I don’t want the wall…then they will give it to me….[laughter]…we have to have it.

Come into the country legally, that’s what you’re fighting for, for borders in other countries…

At this time we turn to the heroes, including the seven brave souls who perished on the Jolly 51 rescue helicopter. Through their sacrifice our fallen heroes have achieved immortality…recorded on fields of battle and remembered for all of time, under my administration we are winning, not losing slowly for 19 years, we are fighting in areas we shouldn’t be fighting and spending billions.  We want to fight where it is meaningful.

Your general understands it. Fight for the meaningful things. You protect us, we will protect you.

The pay raise

You’ve gotten one of the largest pay raises you’ve ever received. Are you willing to give up the pay raise. Don’t give it up. I got you a big one. Plenty of people said we could make it smaller, 2, 3, 4%, I said “no, make it 10%.” You’re putting yourselves out there and your lives. We fight every day to get you the tools, training that you need to fight and win. We don’t play prevent defense. When you see me doing things I always have things in mind, we have things in mind, the media doesn’t report it correctly, you ever notice in football a team holds the other team scoreless, and they got to hold them. And they say “let’s change to prevent defense” and it prevents them from winning.  We want real offense and real defense. We have secured a record increase and we are purchasing all this great equipment, $716 billion. Billion with a B. We were fought hard by the democrats and others. You have to have the finest military equipment. And this year again we are going to be, even a little bit higher. We have no choice, we can’t play cheap with our warriors and military and victory.

Putting America first

The surest way to prevent conflict is to be totally unyielding and ready for conflict if that should happen, America is a peace-loving nation but if we are forced to fight we will engage the enemy with overwhelming force like no one has ever seen before. No military more capable, lethal, fearless and skilled than the US armed forces. Our faith in you is absolute and total, you are the sentinels, the patriots. To every American serving overseas, may god bless you and protect you. We love you, support you, salute you and cherish you and pray for justice goodness, peace on earth.

We are putting America first for the first time in a long time. At the same time we are here to help others. For those who have red caps “make America great again” and that is exactly what we are doing. We flew all night on Christmas evening, myself, the first lady and John Bolton, and it was worth every minute of it. You are outstanding people.


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