Donald Trump makes surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq

Dec 27, 2018, 01:34
Donald Trump makes surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq

Mr Trump said the USA could use Iraq as a forward base if "we wanted to do something in Syria", Reuters news agency reports.

U.S. troops in Syria have been backing Kurdish forces in their fight against the extremist group.

During his first visit to a troubled region, Trump also said he has no plans to withdraw United States forces from Iraq.

Trump landed at 7.16pm local time at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, accompanied by his wife Melania, following what he described as a nerve-wracking, secrecy shrouded flight on a "pitch black" Air Force One. He said that's a job that should be shouldered by other rich nations - reiterating his America First policies and an ideology that challenges America's roles as global cop.

Wire photos showed Trump and first lady Melania Trump meeting with soldiers and military leaders at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq.

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He said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to take out "any remnants" of IS left in Syria.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on December 26, 2018.

Mr Trump was expected to make two stops on his post-Christmas trip, delivering a holiday message to the more than 5,000 American forces stationed in the country.

The President and his wife posed for photographs with USA military personnel during the flying visit to the military base. Top U.S. officials have warned that absent a peace deal with the Taliban, Afghanistan could collapse and descend into further turmoil after a precipitous USA withdrawal. And it was also too late in his presidency to preempt questions about his refusal up until now to appear in a war zone (in contrast to earlier presidents from Madison to Obama) - questions that turned up rumors that the commander-in-chief was fearful for his personal safety. Much of the US campaign in Syria has been waged by warplanes flying out of Qatar and other locations in the Middle East. A year before the deployment, USA airstrikes also began in Syria.

In June 2006, he met with then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and visited with troops. In November, Trump told Fox News that he has been planning to go, but said he has had an "unbelievably busy schedule" since taking office. Pentagon officials at the time refused to discuss specifics, including the timeline, citing operational security for the roughly 2,000 USA troops in Syria.

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Speaking at Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, Trump defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria last week.

Trump added that if needed, the USA can attack ISIS "so fast and so hard" that they "won't know what the hell happened".

"They said again, recently, can we have more time?". "We've knocked them silly". Obama told US troops and Iraqi officials that it was time to phase out America's combat role in the conflict.

Trump has also faced negative headlines for wanting to pull troops from Afghanistan where they have been since 2001.

Trump campaigned for office on a platform of ending USA involvement in foreign trouble spots, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Morale boosting presidential visits to USA troops in war zones have been a longstanding tradition in the years following the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and Trump has taken considerable criticism for declining to visit in the first two years of his presidency.