Al-Asad Air Base (Iraq) (AFP) – President Donald Trump used a lightning visit to Iraq — his first with US troops in a conflict zone since being elected — to defend the withdrawal from Syria and declare an end to America’s role as the global “policeman.”
Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, landed late Wednesday at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq after what he described as a stressful, secrecy shrouded flight on a “pitch black” Air Force One.
He spoke to a group of about 100 mostly special forces personnel and separately with military leaders before leaving a few hours later after a visit that sparked controversy in Iraq.
A planned meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi was scrapped and replaced by a phone call, the premier’s office said.
Trump invited Abdel Mahdi to visit Washington and he accepted, according to the White House.
The president was seen shaking hands with camouflage-clad personnel, signing autographs and posing for photos at the base.
Morale-boosting presidential visits to US troops in war zones have been a longstanding tradition in the years following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Trump has been soundly criticised for eschewing such a trip in the first two years of his presidency. But speculation had been mounting that he would finally make the gesture following his controversial plan to slash troop levels in Afghanistan and his order to withdraw entirely from Syria.