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Pence makes unannounced visit to troops in Iraq

By Sommer Brokaw
Pence makes unannounced visit to troops in Iraq
Vice President Mike Pence visited U.S. troops in Iraq Saturday. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Iraq on Saturday on an unannounced visit to U.S. troops stationed there ahead of Thanksgiving holiday.

Pence landed at Al Asad Air Base for U.S. troops training and assisting Iraq forces fighting the Islamic State.

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The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and several military officers greeted him.

A commanding officer on the base gave him a classified briefing, and he spoke over the phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.

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Pence told Mahdi he had come to Iraq to "extend gratitude to the men and women (of the U.S. military) serving in your country," on the phone call, according to the TV travel pool with the vice president.

Along with his wife, Karen Pence, he served the troops a Thanksgiving lunch, with the vice president dishing out Turkey and his wife yams.

Pence thanked service members for their service as they came up to them, then delivered remarks in a hangar.

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"The president and your vice president and the American people are behind you 100 percent," Pence said, according to the TV travel pool.

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The Trump administration was "fighting to secure another pay raise for the men and women in the military," but "we need Congress to do their jobs," Pence added in the TV travel pool report. "Congress should have finished their work months ago but you know that partisan politics and endless investigations have slowed things down," referring to the impeachment inquiry.

Pence also talked recounted the U.S. military raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying he was in the White House situation room with President Donald Trump when they received word al-Baghdadi was killed.

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Pence also stopped in the Iraqi city of Ebril where some U.S. special operation forces are based.

The trip comes amid anti-government protests since October.

Three people were killed and 26 people were injured Friday as Iraqi security forces dispersed protesters on a central Baghdad bridge, security forces and activists said.

Since the protests began last month over government corruption, lack of public services and unemployment more than 300 people have been killed and nearly 15,000 have been injured, a human rights organization said. CNN reported protests are believed to be the biggest since the fall of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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In December, President Donald Trump similarly made an unannounced visit to U.S. troops in Iraq. The visit came days after he had announced an order to withdrawal all U.S. forces from neighboring Syria.

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