On Wednesday, President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to American military forces stationed in Iraq, marking his first visit to U.S. personnel in a combat zone since taking office.

Nearly a week after the president announced his intentions on Twitter to withdraw American soldiers from Syria and about half of Afghanistan, to the dismay of some of his political allies and which ultimately culminated in the resignation of Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was pushed out nearly two months ahead of schedule after President Trump saw the secretary’s rebuke in his resignation letter.

Trump defended his decisions during a speech at Al Assad Air Base, on Wednesday.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” the president chided before adding that, “our presence in Syria was not open-ended, and it was never intended to be permanent. Eight years ago, we went there for three months, and we never left.”

The president also said that he rejected proposals by his advisers and military commanders to stay in Syria for another six months.

“I said, ‘nope. Nope.’ I said, ‘I gave you a lot of six months,” before adding that,”now we’re doing it a different way.”

Nearly two years into his presidency Trump had yet to make a visit to any troops stationed abroad, drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Last month the president canceled a scheduled visit to an American cemetery outside of Paris for a World War I commemoration ceremony alongside French and German leaders. During an interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, Trump blamed his “unbelievably busy schedule” for the cancellation.

Eager to deliver on campaign promises for his base, the president ran on the platform of bringing troops home from Afghanistan and Syria. Part of a broader strategy to end nearly two decades of American military interventions.

“We’re spread all over the world,” Trump said, “we’re in countries that most people have never heard about. And, frankly, it’s ridiculous.”

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