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Trump makes surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq

Image: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet military p
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet military personnel during an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on Dec. 26, 2018. -
Jonathan Ernst Reuters
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President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to American troops in Iraq on Wednesday, his first journey to an active combat zone since he took office.

The president landed on Wednesday.

Trump visited wounded U.S. troops last Christmas season, on Dec. 21, 2017, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. He also that month invited Coast Guard members to play golf at his course in West Palm Beach, Florida.

But before Wednesday's trip to Iraq, Trump had taken some heat from critics for being the first president since 2002 not to make a Christmastime visit to troops in 2018.

He was also criticized in November for canceling a trip to an American military burial ground outside Paris in November due to weather. Two days after that, he skipped the traditional Veterans Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery.

The president told Fox News' Chris Wallace at the time that he should have gone to Arlington, and he hasn't visited a combat zone because he has "had an unbelievably busy schedule," adding, "I will be doing it."

At this point in their presidencies, President Barack Obama had visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush had visited Iraq just eight months after the start of the war in 2003.

Trump's visit comes a few days after he announced that he was pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, and substantially withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. On Dec. 19, he tweeted that "after historic victories against ISIS, it's time to bring our great young people home!"