nearvideo President Trump and wife Melania Trump makes surprise visit to U.S. troops and senior military leadership in Iraq
President Trump and wife Melania Trump came back to the United States early Thursday, to visit after a surprise trip to Iraq, the American forces stationed there.
Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland at 5:15 PM
After leaving Iraq, the President plane Air Force Base in Germany, stopped at Ramstein to refuel, giving him a second opportunity to visit the US troops overseas.
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During his visit to Al Asad Air Base in Western Iraq, where he thanked the troops and met with senior military officials, Trump defended his recent announcement, to pull the U.S. troops out of Syria.
President Donald Trump and wife Melania Trump Greet the members of the military at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The planned withdrawal comes as the U.S. military controlled area eliminated by the Islamic state terror group in Syria and Iraq.
“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission was in Syria to strip ISIS of its military fortresses” Trump told the troops, adding that the US presence in Syria was never to be “open-ended.”
The unannounced trip-to-Trump’s first to a combat zone as commander in chief-was shrouded in secrecy, only a few days after the President announced the Syria force-planning retreat.
“We are not the fool, people,” Trump service members at the base said. “We are respected again as a nation.”
The President and the first lady spent about three hours on the ground in Iraq.
Trump drew criticism from some for not visiting the troops earlier in his term, shortly before the halfway point. But in a November interview with Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday,” he said, he had planned a visit to the troops abroad.
The First lady, Melania Trump, left, and President Donald Trump on stage together with a coat hanger rally in Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. (Associated Press)
“Well, I think you will see that happen,” said the President, after Wallace noted that former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush each had visited the service members in war zones. “There are things that are planned. We do not want to talk about it, because of the reasons, of course, security and everything else.”
Trump’s visit angered some Iraqi officials, with two large parties to the country’s Parliament condemning the visit.
Trump continued, in part, on the removal of U.S. troops from difficult spots such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Pentagon may be working on a plan to get half of the 14,000 troops withdraw almost still serving in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.