Politics

Trump And Melania Make Surprise Christmas Visit To Iraq

(Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump traveled to Iraq late Christmas evening to visit U.S. service members, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday.

The visit marks Trump’s first visit to a war zone while serving as commander-in-chief, and comes on the heels of major changes in his national security leadership and his policy in the region. The president ordered all 2,000 U.S. forces withdrawn from Syria last week, declaring that the American mission of destroying the ISIS caliphate was accomplished.

US President Donald Trump greets members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Approximately 5,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in Iraq, where the mission continues to be promoting stability by supporting the Iraqi government in its fight against lingering ISIS forces in the region.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet members of the US military during an unannounced trip to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on December 26, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Much of the U.S. anti-ISIS mission is run out of Iraq, where the group originated and rose to prominence. In the coming days, the president is also likely to announce that he will reduce the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, where nearly 15,000 troops are stationed.

The decision sparked the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who vehemently disagreed with Trump. Mattis originally was slated to stay on in his position until the end of February, but the president decided that he should depart at the end of the year. Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan is slated to assume the position.  (RELATED: Mattis Retires From Trump Administration)