Trump, Melania visit Iraq

Trump, Melania visit Iraq

Trump said the US mission in Syria was to strip IS of its military strongholds - not to be a nation-builder.

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. Iraq formally declared victory against the terror group a year ago, but U.S. troops have remained to help stabilize regions of the country and train Iraqi soldiers.

Members of the military cheer as US President Donald Trump speaks at a hanger rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on December 26, 2018.

"In Syria, Erdogan said he wants to knock out ISIS, whatever's left, the remnants of ISIS".

He said: "Our presence in Syria was not open ended and it was never meant to be permanent".

The policy changes, defended by Trump as an exit from wars where the United States no longer needs to be expending lives and money, have sparked alarm among USA allies.

Trump's trip to Iraq came a week after he stunned his national security advisers by announcing the USA troop withdrawal from Syria. 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.

Trump's trip was shrouded in secrecy. Air Force One flew overnight from Washington, landing at an airbase west of Baghdad under the cover of darkness Wednesday evening.

"Look, I think it's important that the president goes and visits the troops, but he's doing this backwards", Eoyang said. IS has lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria but is still seen as a threat.

According to AFP, the president spoke to troops and met with military leaders.

He brushed that scrutiny aside in an October interview with the Associated Press (AP), claiming he had done other things for the military.

Visiting troops overseas is a cherished tradition for presidents.

President Donald Trump arrived in Iraq late on Christmas Day to meet with USA troops, the White House revealed Wednesday. But in November, after facing criticism for canceled a visit to a military cemetery in France because of rain, Trump announced he would soon travel to a war zone.

"He came back into the military because of me", Trump said to reporters.

Mr Trump has said he would travel to Afghanistan at some point. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about. To date, U.S. forces in Syria have been seen as a stabilising factor and have somewhat restrained Turkey's actions against Syrian Kurdish forces. He said some troops "can now return home to their families".

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

Mattis and other top advisers had cautioned Trump not to order a precipitous withdrawal from Syria, where roughly 2000 USA troops enabled a Kurdish-led militia to roll back the self-declared caliphate of the Islamic State.

Both of Mr Trump's predecessors, Republican George W Bush and Democrat Barack Obama, made surprise trips to Iraq during their presidencies.

Theories of where he might have been going were blooming, fueled by the fact that the USA leader was unusually silent on Twitter.

It is also worth noting that Trump has not tweeted for over 17 hours.

Bush visited Iraq in November 2003, about eight months after that conflict began. Vice President Pence visited Afghanistan on December 22, 2017, to address troops and meet with commanders at Bagram Airfield near Kabul. He visited Afghanistan in 2010. Trump has questioned how long troops there should have to remain in what has become America's longest war.

A decade-and-a-half after the start of the USA war, which has cost almost 5,000 American troops their lives, Iraq remains a risky place.

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