President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump appeared on Wednesday in Iraq for a surprise visit with troops and high-ranking military leaders at Al Asad Air Base. There he said it was due to military successes of the US against the terrorist group of the Islamic State that he could pull 2,000 armed forces from Syria.
"We are no longer idiots, folks," Trump told service members at the base in western Iraq. "We are respected again as a nation."
On his first visit to the troubled region, Trump also said he had "no plans at all" to remove one of the 5,000 US troops from that country.
Trump The visit, who is also his first in a combat zone as Commander-in-Chief, follows his announcement to withdraw troops from Syria and allegedly evacuate thousands of troops in Afghanistan.
Trump said the US mission to Syria was to rob the Islamic State (ISIS) of its military strongholds – not to build nationhood. He said that this was a task that needed to be taken over by other rich nations. He reiterated his America First policy and an ideology that challenged America's role as a global policeman.
"I made it clear from the beginning that it is our mission in Syria to cancel ISIS from its military strongholds," Trump told troop Al Asad Air Base. west of Baghdad.
The President said the US presence in Syria had never been "open" and that Turkey had agreed to eliminate ISIS remains.
Trump completed the 11-hour flight on a darkened Air Force One, with the lights off and the irises drawn, accompanied by a jet escort.
The President was accompanied on the Air Force Base by National Security Advisor John Bolton to meet him Political and military leaders.
No other senior officials or members of the congress were present.
The President spent about three hours with the First Lady on the ground.
"President Trump and the First Lady traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night to visit our troops and the military leadership to thank them for their service, their success, their sacrifices, and to wish them a Merry Christmas," Tweeted Sarah Sanders, Press Officer of the White House.
The president called it "rather sad" that for all the US spent in the Middle East, the US still needed to be a surprise for security reasons.
Trump's surprise visit to the region came a week after he declared that ISIS had been "defeated" in Syria in a tweet and ordered to send all American diplomats and soldiers from the country.
The US relinquished ISIS troops to Syria in 2015 during the Obama administration's partnership with Kurdish-led forces. A year before the operation also began US air strikes in Syria.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was not traveling with Trump and working at his Pentagon office Wednesday, signed an order on Sunday to pull all American troops out of Syria in the coming weeks, a senior defense official told Fox News. Pentagon officials refused to discuss details, including the timetable in which they led the approximately 2,000 US troops in Syria for operational security.
The President told reporters traveling with him that he wants to bring US soldiers from Syria home and that Iraq can do so According to Associated Press
Trump should still serve as a base for attacks on fighters of the Islamic State if necessary.
Trump added that the US could attack ISIS "so fast and so hard" that they do not know what the hell happened. "
" When we see something happening to ISIS we do not like, we can hit them so fast and so hard that they really do not know what the hell happened, "Trump added about the militant group he said, is defeated, as Bloomberg News reported. "We struck them silly."
"I think a lot of people will come to my mindset. It's time for us to use our heads, "he told reporters.
Trump said the security concerns forced him to make an earlier trip to US troops in the Middle East
which begins its third year of office next month, suggests that it will soon be visiting troops stationed in a war zone.
In an exclusive interview on "Fox News Sunday," Trump was asked by host Chris Wallace why he had not visited in the two years he served as Commander-in-Chief in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I think you will see that this happens, "said the President, after Wallace noted that Obama and former President George W. Bush were visiting soldiers in war zones." There are things that are being planned. We do not want to talk about it for security reasons – obviously for safety reasons and everything else. "
The President had previously criticized because he did not want to visit the Arlington National Cemetery Veterans Day after his trip to Europe. he should have "visited" the cemetery, but was too busy with official business.
Lucas Tomlinson and Gregg Re of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.