National Security & Defense

Trump Back in Washington after Surprise Iraq Visit

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One at the end of an unannounced visit with troops in Iraq, at Joint Base Andrews, Md., December 27, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump returned from a previously unannounced visit to American troops in Iraq and Germany over the holidays.

“Just returned from visiting our troops in Iraq and Germany. One thing is certain, we have incredible people representing our Country – people that know how to win!” the president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

Trump was recently criticized for not visiting deployed American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan since taking office two years ago.

His first warzone visit came just after Trump abruptly announced last week that he would order the withdrawal of the close to 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria, an unpopular decision that earned bipartisan criticism.

“You know, the way it was reported was like I just pulled out,” Trump said during his visit to a U.S. air base in western Iraq. “I didn’t just pull out. I’ve been talking about it for a year and a half.”

“I said, ‘Let’s get out of Syria. Let’s bring our young people home,’” Trump said.

“In fact, we could use this as the base if we wanted to do something in Syria,” he added during his visit to Al Asad Air Base.

There are “no plans at all” to bring home the 5,000 troops in Iraq, Trump told the group of troops. He has, however, mulled the withdrawal of the thousands of U.S. soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan.

When he announced the decision last week, the president insisted that the Islamic State (ISIS) has been “defeated” in Syria, which Trump said was the only goal of the U.S. in the region.

“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds,” he told  troops in Iraq.

The Obama administration first sent troops to Syria in 2015 to work alongside Kurdish forces fighting ISIS.

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