Kevin Breuninger, Amanda Macias, Tucker Higgins
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
“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 press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
This is the first time Trump has visited U.S. troops in a war zone since becoming president.
Air Force One left the U.S. overnight from Washington, D.C., and landed at an airbase west of Baghdad Wednesday evening. Photos of the trip surfaced on Reuters Wednesday. National security advisor John Bolton was also present, according to Reuters.
Trump will also visit U.S. troops at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on his way back to Washington.
The president’s visit comes on the heels of his sudden decision to withdraw American ground forces from Syria, which prompted Secretary of Defense James Mattis to hand in his resignation.
A day before he resigned, Mattis recorded a holiday message for troops.
Speaking to reporters in Iraq, Trump defended the decision to withdraw the nearly 2,000 troops, saying, “A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking.”
In a tweet last week, Trump claimed that Islamic militant group ISIS had been “defeated” in the country.
But Trump said Wednesday that he has “no plans at all” to remove U.S. troops from Iraq.