President Trump Returns to White House After Surprise Iraq Trip

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Trump made the surprise visit to USA troops in Iraq on Wednesday, his first trip to a conflict zone almost two years into his presidency and days after announcing a pullout of American troops from neighboring Syria.

In the pool report of the trip - which was embargoed to help protect the Trumps' safety in Iraq - the president asked the chaplain of Seal Team Five, Lieutenant Commander Kyu Lee, to take a picture with him, revealing the presence of the special ops team at the al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq.

"President Trump and the First Lady travelled 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 said in a tweet.

On December 19, the USA leader announced his decision to start pulling out American troops from Syria, stressing that the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) had been defeated and this was the only reason why the U.S. forces had remained there under his presidency.

Trump was looking for some positive headlines after days of turmoil over his decisions to withdraw all USA troops from Syria, pull out half of the 14,000-strong contingent in Afghanistan, and push out Defense Secretary James Mattis two months earlier than planned for criticizing his policies.

But critics claim the fight against ISIS is not yet over, and slammed Mr Trump's decision to withdraw the troops.

Some observers say the Trump administration's decision to withdraw about 2,000 United States troops in the war-torn country amounts to abandoning these Kurdish allies. We've knocked them out. Go ahead, take more time. You've had enough time.

Some Iraqis, however, were less concerned with the U.S. president's visit. And others will do it too.

The US, backed by the United Kingdom, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

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Trump visits U.S. troops in Iraq, his first trip as president to a combat zone

President Trump was due to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi during the trip but the talks were cancelled over what Mr Mahdi's office called "disagreements" over organisation.

US troops in Syria have been assisting a Kurdish militia in rooting out IS.

In his unusually forcefully worded resignation letter, Mattis appeared to chide Trump when he stressed his own "strongly held" views on "treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors".

The Islamic State group, which once controlled swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, has been driven mostly into hiding.

The US and a coalition of its allies further launched a military campaign against purported Daesh targets in Iraq in 2014, but their operations have in many instances led to civilian deaths. They don't pay for it, and they're going to have to.

But after defeating Isis militants in their last urban bastions past year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraqi soil.

"We are spread out all over the world". It continues to experience sporadic bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, which most people attribute to IS. "Frankly, it's ridiculous", Trump said. George W. Bush made four trips to Iraq as president and President Barack Obama made one.

But he has been criticised by some in the U.S. military for not visiting troops in conflict zones since taking office in January 2017.

The president's visit, which was shrouded in secrecy, follows months of public pressure for him to spend time with troops deployed to conflicts in the Middle East and punctuates the biggest week of turmoil the Pentagon has faced during his presidency. I've been telling the generals, 'Let's go.