Trump Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq, His First to a Combat Zone

But apart from the photo ops alongside uniformed military members, Trump is expected to use the Iraq trip to further explain his decision to end the Syria deployment and cut troops in Afghanistan. "We're respected again as a nation".

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

The trip, shrouded in secrecy, came in the midst of a government shutdown and less than a week after Mr. Trump disrupted America's military status quo and infuriated even some of his staunchest political allies by announcing plans to withdraw troops from Syria and about half of those stationed in Afghanistan.

There were speculations about what the president was up to after reports of Air Force One being spotted flying over Europe.

Turkey views the Kurdish-led force US troops have relied on to roll back the Islamic State in Syria as enemies, and Pentagon officials worry Turkish forces will massacre the Kurds while failing to prevent a resurgence of ISIS. He said that's a job that should be shouldered by other rich nations - reiterating his America First policies and an ideology that challenges America's roles as global cop.

Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, landed at 7:16 pm local time at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq.

The president spoke to a group of about 100 mostly special forces personnel and separately with military leaders before leaving a few hours later, an AFP correspondent said.

No other top officials or members of Congress were along. On his last presidential visit in December 2008, Bush had to duck shoes that an Iraqi journalist hurled at him during a news conference in Baghdad.

They left Washington late Christmas night, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon. Much of the US campaign in Syria has been waged by warplanes flying out of Qatar and other locations in the Middle East. USA 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. A year before the deployment, USA airstrikes also began in Syria.

He later began to signal that such a troop visit was in the offing.

In between, media outlets that had earlier trumpeted Trump's supposed non-visit to the troops were spinning the news that he had, in fact, visited by noting that it was his first visit to a war zone since taking office.

All of roughly 2,000 American troops were ordered out of Syria, Fox News was told last weekend.

Trump said it's because of USA military gains that he can withdraw 2,000 forces from Syria.

Trump added that if needed, the US can attack ISIS "so fast and so hard" that they "won't know what the hell happened". "It's time for us to start using our head", said the president. "We've knocked them silly".

Talking to reporters, Trump defended his Syria decision and said people were going to eventually understand his reasoning.

Prior to the visit, Trump had faced criticism for breaking with an annual tradition since 2003 of presidents visiting troops deployed overseas around the Christmas holiday.

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.

Photos from the ground showed Trump in a black overcoat and red tie, posing for a picture with troops in fatigues.

Former President Barack Obama made a habit of spending the holidays in his childhood home state of Hawaii. "There are things that are being planned".