President Trump makes surprise visit to Iraq to wish US troops a Merry Christmas

President Trump and the first lady appeared in Iraq on Wednesday for a surprise visit with troops and senior military leadership at Al Asad Air Base, where he said he has “no plans at all” to remove any of the 5,000 U.S. troops from the country.

Trump’s visit — his first as president to a combat zone — comes on the heels of his announcement about pulling troops out of Syria and the rumored removal of thousands of troops in Afghanistan.

The president and first lady landed at Al Asad Air Base in western Anbar Province, once one of the deadliest regions during the Iraq War. They went 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 Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.

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The base is about 145 miles west of Baghdad. It was not clear if the president was also going to visit the Iraqi capital.

There are more than 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. The forces at Al Asad reportedly greeted the president and first lady enthusiastically with a standing ovation.

Trump was joined on the trip by National Security Advisor John Bolton, and they were met at Al Asad by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Sillman.

The surprise trip also comes as Trump will search for a new Defense Secretary, in the wake of James Mattis’ resignation, which will take effect at the start of the new year.