US President Donald Trump makes surprise visit to troops in Iraq

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

UPDATE [12/26/2018, 5:01 p.m. EST]: This afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump had indeed visited military troops, arriving at Al Asad Air Base near Baghdad on Wednesday morning.

They travelled there unannounced "late on Christmas night" to thank troops for "their service, their success and their sacrifice", it said.

Last week, Trump announced his decision to withdraw USA troops from Syria and ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan.

Mr Trump and his wife made a visit to al-Asad airbase to meet military personnel in the base's restaurant.

Reuters reported last week that the Pentagon was considering using special operations teams to target Islamic State militants in Syria, based out of Iraq.

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

It was a day late to qualify as the kind of iconic holiday trip to celebrate with US troops that George W. Bush pulled off on Thanksgiving Day in 2003. "I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years".

And despite widespread condemnation, a defiant Mr Trump was adamant he is right to remove troops from Syria.

During his remarks, the Commander-in-Chief encouraged US service members to keep up the fight and vowed to continue the fight against ISIS from Iraq.

Mattis resigned in the wake of the Syria decision, writing in his resignation letter that he and Trump disagree in their worldview and that the president's policies threaten the alliance structure the United States helped construct in the aftermath of World War II.

Trump's visit comes a few days after he announced that he was pulling all USA troops out of Syria, and substantially withdrawing forces from Afghanistan.

"It's not fair when the burden is all on us", he said.

"The nations of the region must step up and take more responsibility for their future", said Trump, who said there would be a "strong, deliberate and orderly withdrawal" of U.S. forces from Syria. I mean, this is the greatest economy we've ever had, best unemployment numbers.

Mr Trump said Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, whom he named on Sunday to replace Mattis in an acting capacity starting on 1 January, "could be there for a long time". Obama's administration was unable to strike a deal with the Iraqi government to allow for a residual U.S. force to maintain stability in the country.

Trump had planned to spend Christmas at his private club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington due to the partial government shutdown. We've knocked them out. He said some troops "can now return home to their families".

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

Obama visited a little more than four hours at Camp Victory. Iraq keeps reinforcements along its frontier to guard against infiltration by IS militants, who hold a pocket of territory along the Euphrates River.

There was no mention of the proposed Afghanistan withdrawal.

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