Officials in Iraq slam Trump's unannounced visit to base

Donald Trump visits US troops in Iraq for first trip to a conflict zone

Trump visits U.S. troops in Iraq, his first trip as president to a combat zone

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted Wednesday afternoon, "President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit with our troops and Senior Military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, and their sacrifice and to wish them a Merry Christmas".

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump made the unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base about a week after the President made the controversial decision to pull US troops out of Syria, which borders Iraq.

In a surprise visit to United States troops, Trump on Wednesday landed at an airbase west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, where he thanked the soldiers for their service.

Trump hasn't said anything in the past week about the USA presence in Iraq, where some 5000 American troops remain, assisting Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north in the effort to secure the nation from the threat of the Islamic State.

The drawdowns - and the abrupt way that they were announced - helped lead to the resignation of Trump's defense secretary, Jim Mattis, who has been one of the administration's key heavyweights.

According to NPR, Trump and Mahdi had planned to meet, but this fell apart after he asked the prime minister to leave the capital city of Baghdad and meet him in Al Asad - a request Iraqis found disrespectful to their sovereignty.

This will encourage Russia, Turkey and Iran to continue to pursue their agendas in Syria and perhaps to leverage anger in Iraq over Trump's visit to pressure the USA in Baghdad as well.

The Afghanistan withdrawal order came alongside Trump's abrupt announcement last week that he would pull all 2000 USA troops from Syria, a decision made against the counsel of his top advisers and without warning allies in the fight there against the Islamic State. On December 19, the USA leader announced his decision to start pulling out American troops from Syria, stressing that the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) had been defeated and this was the only reason why the U.S. forces had remained there under his presidency. But speculation had been mounting that he would finally make the gesture following his controversial plan to slash troop levels in Afghanistan and his order to withdraw entirely from Syria.

As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before.

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"So that's the way it is", Trump said, according to a White House transcript.

"We've knocked them out", he said.

Mr Trump said he was not personally concerned for his safety on the trip but he said he had never experienced a flight with such security measures in place.

"Having stated, during a surprise visit to Iraq that he meant to keep a military base in that country as an advanced springboard for actions in Syria, US President Donald Trump is trying to have it both ways".

Trump's decision to go to Iraq the day after Christmas is part of an attempt to change the narrative after being slammed for his reversal of Syrian policy and accusations that he made the decision without consulting the Pentagon or State Department.

He added: "While maintaining the USA presence in Iraq to prevent an ISIS resurgence and to protect United States interests, and also to always watch very closely over any potential reformation of ISIS and also to watch over Iran".

Meanwhile, on Thursday, an explosion was reportedly heard in Baghdad's Green Zone, where the US Embassy and many other foreign diplomatic missions are located. George W. Bush made four trips to Iraq as president and President Barack Obama made one. "Eight years ago, we went there for three months and we never left".

Trump's ignorance of Iraq's tenuous political scene, he said, may "open the doors for resistance against the American presence in Iraq again".

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