The outcry came after the surprise visit by US President Donald Trump on Wednesday. Trump's was no exception as he flew overnight from Washington, spent three-plus hours on the ground and stopped on the way back at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany for refueling and to greet service members in a hangar.
That visit and the U.S. troop presence were denounced on Thursday by parliament members, major Iraqi political parties and key players in the current Iraqi government.
During Trump's visit to the base, he paused to take a selfie with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Kyu Lee (seen above with Trump).
The president and first lady shook hands with the service members.
In a statement issued following Trump's appearance, Abdul-Mahdi said his office had been informed of the president's desire to arrange a visit, which was supposed to include a formal meeting between the two leaders. Trump's defense secretary resigned last week after the Syria troop decision, writing in a departure letter the President deserved a military chief more aligned with his worldview.
"Melania and I were honored to visit our incredible troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq".
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Soon, amateur aircraft watchers were tracking a Boeing VC-25, the military plane that serves as Air Force One, flying over Europe. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned following the announcement, and Trump's decision rattled allies around the world, including in Iraq.
'Operational security is the most important aspect of personnel deployments, ' Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist who has experience in Iraq, told Newsweek. "Make it about them", he said, "don't put the spotlight on you". Trump said from Baghdad he was concerned about the safety of those accompanying him to Iraq.
The reasons for the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Syria, as well as Washington's future plans in the Middle East, are not yet known, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Tsarikov said on Thursday. He told The Associated Press in October that he didn't think such a visit was "overly necessary".
Trump had planned to spend Christmas at his private club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington due to the shutdown.
Iraq's previous prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, was a strong supporter of the American presence in Iraq - a view shared by the top leadership of Iraq's security forces. "The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over".