President Donald Trump made an unannounced trip to Iraq on Wednesday to meet US troops.
According to the White House pool report, the group was made up "of about 100 mostly USA special operations troops engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Syria". 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.
Members of the military cheer as US President Donald Trump speaks at a hanger rally at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on December 26, 2018.
"We want peace and the best way to have peace is through strength", Trump told troops wearing camouflage fatigues in a hangar as he concluded his visit.
During his first visit to the troubled region, Trump also said he has "no plans at all" to remove any of the 5,000 USA troops from that country.
Thousands more returned four years later to battle ISIS.
Some imagined how Trump interacted with the troops. The last USA service member to die in Iraq was in August, as the result of a helicopter crash in Sinjar.
Trump, who speaks often about his support for the USA military, had faced criticism for not yet visiting USA troops stationed in harm's way as he comes up on his two-year mark in office.
"It's not fair when the burden is all on us", he said.
Mr Trump has said Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who he named as General Mattis's replacement, "could be there for a long time".
One of those critics was Mattis, who said in a candid resignation letter last week that his views did not align with the president's, particularly in regard to the treatment of United States allies. "It would have been helpful at the beginning if he had said, 'Look, we're getting out of Syria because we have plenty of resources in Iraq to deal with the ISIS problem". He was followed out the exit by Brett McGurk, the USA special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition who Trump claims not to know.
Trump had planned to spend Christmas at his private club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington due to the shutdown.
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before.
Trump invited Abdel Mahdi to Washington, the office said, and "the two sides agreed to continue to strengthen the common relations between the two countries".
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi recently said Iraqi troops could deploy into Syria to protect Iraq from threats across its borders.
The US military says it has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, focused on training and advising Iraqi troops to ensure that ISIL does not re-emerge.