Trump makes surprise trip to Iraq, his first combat-zone visit

Trump makes surprise trip to Iraq, his first combat-zone visit

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The president and first lady take photos with military personnel during a three-hour visit to the Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq on Christmas night. The trip marked Donald Trump's first to a combat zone since he took office on January 20, 2017, (WhiteHouse..gov)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived in Iraq Wednesday, part of an unannounced trip that marks the president’s first time visiting U.S. troops in a combat zone since he assumed office.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the secret trip on Twitter.

“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,” Sanders said.

The couple spent three hours at the Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, where they greeted troops, posed for selfies and signed autographs.

Trump visits Iraq 12/26/18- (Pool photo/NPR)

The Trumps were reportedly met with a standing ovation as they entered the base’s mess hall, according to pool reports.

While on base, the president defended his recently announced decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria, telling reporters that ISIS is “very nearly defeated” and that U.S. forces in Iraq would be able to fight back the terror network if there is ever a resurgence.

Trump has previously brushed off questions over why he has taken so long to visit a combat zone.

In an October interview with the Associated Press, Trump said that he did not believe it was “overly necessary,” but added that he intended to at some point.

“I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here,” Trump said.

Trump faced negative headlines Tuesday after not meeting with troops in-person on Christmas.

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