Photos of President Trump’s surprise Iraq visit

U.S. President Trump and the First Lady greet military personnel at the dining facility during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base Iraq

The visit to the Al-Asad Airbase west of the capital, Baghdad, comes just a week after Trump unsettled his military advisers and global allies, including in Iraq, by announcing that he would withdraw U.S. troops from neighboring Syria, where they have also been helping in the fight against extremist militants.

The president and first lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to troops in Iraq on Wednesday, leaving the White House late Christmas evening.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on December 26, 2018.

President Trump and the first lady during a hangar rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday.

U.S. defence secretary James Mattis was ousted from office two months early shortly after Mr Trump announced his decision to withdraw troops, claiming ISIS had been beaten.

Trump told troops that he has "no plans at all" to withdraw from Iraq, despite a decision this month to pull USA troops out Syria and consider doing so in Afghanistan.

Mr Trump said Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, whom he named on Sunday to replace Mattis in an acting capacity starting on 1 January, "could be there for a long time".

Trump had faced scrutiny for putting off a visit to the troops.

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.

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Washington has backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters while Turkey brands the group a terrorist organization. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that "if Turkey says it will enter, it will".

Syrian air defenses confront Israeli missiles above Damascus
Tuesday's attack is the first since a missile assault on the southern outskirts of Damascus on November 29. Lebanon's National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

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Trump had never traveled to Iraq or Afghanistan but Air Force One was spotted by WikiLeaks flying in the direction earlier in the day. "They should be sharing the burden of costs and they're not", Trump told reporters.

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

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.

The visit from Trump came during an especially tumultuous time for his presidency.

The first couple, greeting military personnel at the dining facility during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base.

And as such, the commander in chief was fulfilling what is viewed as an essential duty in paying them a surprise Christmastime visit.

The President and his wife posed for photographs with United States military personnel during the flying visit to the military base. To date, US forces in Syria have been seen as a stabilizing factor and have somewhat restrained Turkey's actions against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Visiting troops overseas is a cherished tradition for presidents.

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