If President Trump's Twitter feed seemed uncharacteristically quiet on Wednesday, now we know why. The president made a surprise trip to Iraq to visit US troops, his first visit to a combat zone, reports the New York Times. First lady Melania Trump accompanied him as he spoke to service members at Al Asad Air Base near Baghdad. Trump was expected to make a second stop as well. Details:
- Defiant: The president struck a defiant tone in his remarks to the troops, notes the AP. "We're no longer the suckers, folks," he said. "We're respected again as a nation."
- Staying put: Trump said he had no plans to withdraw the approximately 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq, and he defended his controversial decision to withdraw troops from Syria. "I think a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking," he told reporters, per Reuters. Besides, he said, the US could always deploy the troops in Iraq to fight ISIS if necessary. “In fact, we could use this as the base if we wanted to do something in Syria."
- Official reason: "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 Sanders tweeted.
- Long awaited: Trump had been under increasing pressure to visit troops abroad, notes Politico. Barack Obama and George W. Bush, for instance, visited Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. Earlier this year, Trump had said he didn't think making such a trip was "overly necessary."
- Tumultuous times: The visit, of course, comes on the heels of the resignation of defense chief James Mattis over the Syria decision, making this the "biggest week of turmoil the Pentagon has faced during his presidency," per the Washington Post. Trump said Wednesday that acting chief Patrick Shanahan "could be there for a long time."
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