President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have made an unannounced Christmas visit at the al-Asad airbase in Iraq.
The first family traveled there “late on Christmas night” to thank troops for “their service, their success and their sacrifice”, the White House said.
President Trump said the US had no plans to pull out of Iraq, Reuters reports.
The trip came days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit over divisions about strategy in the region.
The US still has some 5,000 troops in Iraq to support the government in its fight against what remains of the ISIS.
President Trump, the First Lady and National Security Adviser John Bolton traveled on Air Force One to al-Asad airbase, west of the capital Baghdad, to meet military personnel in the base’s restaurant.
The president spent about three hours at the base in what is his first visit to the region.
During the visit President Trump got a standing ovation from troops as he entered a dining hall and walked around greeting them, posing for selfies with them and signing autographs.
He tweeted: “.@FLOTUS Melania and I were honored to visit our incredible troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!”
The president had planned to spend Christmas at his private golf club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington because of the current partial government shutdown.
“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” he told American servicemen and women at the base.
“We’re respected again as a nation.”
President Trump said the US could use Iraq as a forward base if “we wanted to do something in Syria”, Reuters news agency reports.
He defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria during the visit, saying: “A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking.
“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip Isis [another name for IS] of its military strongholds.
“Eight years ago, we went there for three months and we never left. Now, we’re doing it right and we’re going to finish it off.”
President Trump said there would be no delays in the withdrawal and added that the US “cannot continue to be the policeman of the world”.
He also said that security considerations had prevented him from visiting US troops in the region several weeks ago.
President Trump announced the decision to pull US troops out of Syria last week.