Published: Fri, December 28, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

President Donald Trump pays unannounced visit to United States troops in Iraq

President Donald Trump pays unannounced visit to United States troops in Iraq

President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to American troops in Iraq on Wednesday, his first journey to an active combat zone since he took office. But aviation enthusiasts watching aircraft trackers spotted Air Force One travelling over Europe despite Mr Trump having no scheduled visits, sparking speculation of a Christmas visit to the troops in the Middle East.

Abdul-Mahdi's office did not say whether he had accepted Trump's invitation to visit Washington, and attributed the missed connection to "differences in points of view over the arrangements". On December 19, the U.S. 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 USA forces had remained there under his presidency.

But critics have condemned what they see as the president's increasingly isolationist foreign policy, saying it will give ISIL a chance to regroup.

Trump spoke to members of all five US military branches via a video conference call on Tuesday.

It's reported Trump also wants to reduce the number of USA troops in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 7,000. In the Kurdish region there were hopes for a Trump visit, even as there is criticism of the United States walking away from Kurdish areas in Syria. Trump sought to highlight the achievements of the four year war on ISIS, including what he said was the liberation of 20,000 square miles of territory and 3 million civilians.

The prime minister's office said "differences in points of view over the arrangements" prevented the two from meeting but they discussed security issues and Trump's order to withdraw USA troops from Syria over the phone.

Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, landed late Wednesday at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq after what he described as a stressful, secrecy shrouded flight on a "pitch black" Air Force One.

One of those critics was Mattis, who said in a candid resignation letter last week that his views did not align with the president's, particularly in regard to the treatment of USA allies.

The president made his first trip to the combat zone with Melania to boost morale with United States troops.

The visit could have unintended consequences for American policy, with officials from both sides of Iraq's political divide calling for a vote in Parliament to expel USA forces from the country.

He acknowledged security concerns about visiting Iraq, saying it was "pretty sad" that he needed such secrecy to see USA troops.

U.S. defence secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned following the announcement, and Mr Trump's decision rattled allies around the world, including in Iraq.

U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State group.

He said: "Our presence in Syria was not open ended and it was never meant to be permanent".

On Dec. 15, the USA -led coalition launched an airstrike in support of Iraqi troops who were chasing IS fighters toward a tunnel west of Mosul.

Revealing identities "even if it's the commander-in-chief, would prove a propaganda boom if any of this personnel are detained by a hostile government or captured by a terrorist group", Malcolm Nance, a former US Navy intelligence specialist told Newsweek. He told reporters and the troops on the ground that he has no plans to withdrawal American forces anytime soon.

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