Trump makes surprise Iraq visit, justifies Syria pullout

President Trump made a surprise visit to US troops in Iraq on Wednesday, the first time Trump met with American troops in a combat zone.

Trump's trip to Iraq was carried out in the utmost secrecy, with the presidential airplane, Air Force One, flying from Washington overnight and landing at the air base under cover of darkness on Wednesday evening. Trump's defense secretary resigned last week after the Syria troop decision, writing in a departure letter the President deserved a military chief more aligned with his worldview.

President Donald Trump visits with members of the military at a dining hall at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018.

Mr Trump said he had told his advisers, "let's get out of Syria", but was then persuaded to stay, before deciding to bring the 2,000 troops home.

He defended his shock decision to withdraw United States forces from Syria, announced without consulting allies or advisers before Christmas.

With U.S. service members fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under his watch, Bush visited the wounded at Walter Reed every Christmas after 2003.

Thousands more returned four years later to battle ISIS.

In 2017, Trump visited service members at Walter Reed National Medical Center before heading to his Mar-a-Lago resort for the holidays, where he would also host local Coast Guard members for a round of golf.

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.

Trump's visit comes a few days after he announced that he was pulling all US troops out of Syria, and substantially withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. The US presence in Syria was not meant to be "open-ended", he said, adding that other wealthy nations should pay for rebuilding Syria. "In fact, the way he's done this, even if it is the right decision ultimately, the way that he's done it will cause more chaos in the region, because it's a precipitous withdraw, not coordinated with our allies".

"I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds", said Trump, who wore an olive green bomber style jacket as he was welcomed by chants of "USA!" "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".

The Iraqi prime minister recently said Iraqi troops could deploy into Syria to protect Iraq from threats across its borders.

Trump has always been critical of the war in Afghanistan, which was born of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and has stretched on for more than 17 years, becoming America's longest war.

A decade-and-a-half later, the US-led war on the false pretext of finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and some 5,000 American troops without yielding any meaningful results.

  • Tracy Klein