President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania made their way to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Wednesday to visit with troops and military leaders, where the president asserted he has “no plans at all” to reduce the number of military personnel in the country. This marks Trump’s first visit to a combat zone as the commander in chief.
National Security Adviser John Bolton attended meetings with the president at Al Asad Air Base. The president and first lady also spent about three hours with troops.
“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,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in a tweet.
The visit comes on the heels of Trump announcing the removal troops from Syria, after declaring that ISIS was “defeated” in the country, as well as his intention to drastically cut the number of military personnel in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Jim Mattis, the outgoing defense secretary, signed orders to pull all US troops out of Syria over the course of the coming weeks.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) December 26, 2018
Speaking with reporters during the trip, according to a report by Fox News, Trump asserted that he wanted to get US military personnel home from Syria and that Iraq could serve as a base of operations for attacks against Islamic State militants in the country should the need arise.
Trump continued that, if necessary, the US can strike in Syria “so fast and so hard” that the militants “won’t know what the hell happened.”
“I think a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking,” said Trump. “It’s time for us to start using our head.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2018
Trump had previously hinted that a trip to a combat zone was in the works. During an interview, he was asked why he hadn’t visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq previously.
“Well, I think you will see that happen,” said the president. “There are things that are being planned. We don’t want to talk about it because of — obviously because of security reasons and everything else.”