President Trump makes surprise Christmas visit to troops in Iraq

Saul Bowman
December 27, 2018

During President Donald Trump's unannounced visit to troops in Iraq on Wednesday-his first trip to troops deployed to a combat zone since he was elected-he admitted he had been concerned about making the trip.

Trump has sought to distance himself from the foreign entanglements he describes as foolhardy mistakes made by his predecessors, including the war in Iraq.

Trump's trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy. The Pentagon is also said to be developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 American troops still serving in Afghanistan.

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

Trump spoke on the phone with the prime minister, but the White House said security concerns and the short notice of the trip prevented the president from meeting him face-to-face.

George W. Bush made four trips to Iraq after ordering American troops into the country in 2003.

The president made his first trip to the combat zone with Melania to boost morale with United States troops.

It is still unclear whether this trip was scheduled only after it became apparent that the shuttered U.S. government would remain partially shut down indefinitely, with Trump and congressional Democrats in a clinch over the president's call for an anti-immigrant wall on the Mexico border.

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

The president spent around three hours on the ground with the first lady. "I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years".

U.S. defence secretary James Mattis was ousted from office two months early shortly after Mr Trump announced his decision to withdraw troops, claiming ISIS had been beaten.

Trump invited Abdel Mahdi to Washington, the office said, and "the two sides agreed to continue to strengthen the common relations between the two countries".

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's critics have said that the fight is far from over and the withdrawal leaves allies in the lurch.

Trump's decision comes one week after pulling troops from Afghanistan and Syria.

But those decisions have been unpopular among even his own national security team, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned last week. "If we see something happening with ISIS that we don't like, we can hit them so fast and so hard" that they "really won't know what the hell happened".

They and other officials warned Trump that leaving the region now would allow for ISIS, or another terror group, to regain a foothold.

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