Donald and Melania Trump see US troops in Iraq in Christmas trip

Thu 27 Dec 2018 20:55 GMT | 00:55 Local Time

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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have made an unannounced Christmas visit to US troops in Iraq, Trend reported citing BBC.

They traveled there "late on Christmas night" to thank troops for "their service, their success, and their sacrifice", the White House said.

Mr. Trump said the US had no plans to pull out of Iraq, Reuters reports.

The trip came days after Defence Secretary Jim Mattis quit over divisions about strategy in the region.

Mr. Trump and his wife traveled on Air Force One to the al-Asad airbase, west of the capital Baghdad, to meet military personnel in the base's restaurant.

It is his first visit to the region.

He had planned to spend Christmas at his private club in Florida but stayed behind in Washington because of the current partial government shutdown.

The US still has some 5,000 troops in Iraq to support the government in its fight against what remains of the Islamic State (IS) group.

"We're no longer the suckers, folks," he told American servicemen and women at the base. "We're respected again as a nation."

Mr. Trump said the US could use Iraq as a forward base if "we wanted to do something in Syria", Reuters news agency reports.

He defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria during the visit, saying: "A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking.

"I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip Isis [another name for IS] of its military strongholds.

"Eight years ago, we went there for three months and we never left. Now, we're doing it right and we're going to finish it off."

He announced the decision to pull US troops out of Syria last week.

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