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Donald Trump makes surprise Christmas visit to US troops deployed in Iraq

The visit was Trump’s first to US troops in a war zone since he was elected president two years ago.

Donald Trump on his first trip to visit US troops deployed in a war zone since he was elected president two years ago
Donald Trump on his first trip to visit US troops deployed in a war zone since he was elected president two years ago
Image: PA Images

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP made a surprise visit to Iraq on Wednesday, his first trip to US troops deployed in a war zone since being elected two years ago.

Trump landed at 7:16 pm local time at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, accompanied by his wife Melania Trump, an AFP correspondent said.

The president spoke to troops and met with military leaders.

Although the visit took place in considerable secrecy, speculation had been mounting that Trump might make such a trip following his decision to slash troop levels in Afghanistan and pull out entirely from Syria.

“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,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted.

Melania Trump’s spokeswoman called it “a surprise visit to our brave U.S. service members currently deployed in Iraq”.

Presidential trips to boost troop morale have been a longstanding tradition in the years of war following the 11 September terrorist attacks in 2001, and Trump has taken considerable criticism for declining until now to experience a war zone.

But apart from the photo ops alongside uniformed military members, Trump used the Iraq trip to further explain his decision to end the Syria deployment and cut troops in Afghanistan.

The policy changes, defended by Trump as an exit from wars where the United States no longer needs to be expending lives and money, have sparked alarm among US allies.

Trump used the visit to declare that “the United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world”.

He defended his controversial decision to pull troops out of Syria, saying there would be no delays.

“You can’t have any more time. You’ve had enough time,” he said he had told his generals.

© – AFP 2019

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