Trump And Melania Make Surprise Christmas Visit To Iraq

US cannot be policeman of the world,’ says Donald Trump after surprise visit to troops in Iraq

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump at the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Wednesday | Jonathan Ernst Reuters

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive to speak to members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018.

"President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas", Sanders said.

As Fox News reported, Trump was joined by National Security Adviser John Bolton at Al Asad Air Base for meetings with military leaders.

Air Force One flew overnight from Washington, landing at an airbase west of Baghdad under the cover of darkness on Wednesday evening (local time).

Trump indicated he would not rush to nominate a new secretary to replace Mattis, the first defense chief in decades to resign over policy differences with the president.

The U.S. military says it has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, focused on training and advising Iraqi troops to ensure that Islamic State does not re-emerge.

While there has been no full-scale violence in Iraq since Islamic State suffered a series of defeats previous year, US troops train and advise Iraqi forces still waging a campaign against the militant group. US forces reentered Iraq in 2014 after the Islamic State established a self-declared caliphate in Syria and swept through Iraq, reaching the outskirts of the capital, Baghdad. The Syria withdrawal, which Trump announced in a tweet with little or no advance notice or consultation with the cabinet, led to the abrupt resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

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When asked if he had concerns about his trip to Iraq, Trump said 'absolutely'. Trump has questioned how long troops there should have to remain in what has become America's longest war.

It is also worth noting that Trump has not tweeted for over 17 hours. That move comes at a time when the trying to negotiate a lasting ceasefire agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents.

Trump has described the United States involvement in Afghanistan as a "complete waste" and vowed to bring home American troops.

On Sunday, Trump said in a tweet that he had spoken with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan about a "slow and highly coordinated" withdrawal of the USA troops, suggesting that he might slow down the process after the barrage of criticism.

The surprise visit came just one day after NBC News published an article criticizing Trump for being the first president since 2002 not to visit the troops at Christmastime.

He did call troops stationed around the world, but made no personal visits, the network news said. President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush had already visited combat zones by this point in their presidencies.

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