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Pence makes surprise trip to Iraq, his first as vice president

Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced trip to Iraq on Saturday, his first visit to the country as vice president. Pence traveled to Iraq previously when he was a congressman.

Pence landed at the Al-Asad Air Base, which is approximately 100 miles outside of Baghdad, shortly before noon local time. Pence and his wife were greeted by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and several military officers. He received a classified briefing from the commanding officer on the base, and then had a phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

Pence, flanked by his national security adviser Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, told Mahdi that he was in Iraq in part to "extend gratitude to the men and women (of the U.S. military) serving in your country."

Pence and his wife also served the soldiers stationed at the base a Thanksgiving lunch, which included a menu of turkey, ham, corn on the cob, and macaroni and cheese. 

Pence served turkey while his wife handed out yams. As each military member came up, the vice president and Mrs. Pence thanked each for their service.

APTOPIX Iraq Pence Visit
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence arrive with turkey to serve to troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. Andrew Harnik/AP

Pence also gave remarks to about 150 service members in a hanger, primarily to express his gratitude.

"The president and your vice president and the American people are behind you 100%," Pence said.

He also said the administration was "fighting to secure another pay raise for the men and women in the military," adding that it would be "the biggest in 9 years," sparking the largest applause from the crowd. 

Pence added that "we need Congress to do their job."

"Congress should have finished their work months ago but you know that partisan politics and endless investigations have slowed things down, " Pence said, in a reference to the House impeachment proceedings.

Pence also visited Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan to reassure Kurds of U.S. support. The U.S. withdrew troops from northeastern Syria last month in what some said amounted to an abandonment of Kurds in the region.

Pence and his wife were greeted in Erbil by the deputy counsel general of the U.S. consulate and military officers. The vice president then met with and held a bilateral meeting with the president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani.

"On behalf of President Trump, I also welcome the opportunity to reiterate the strong bonds forged in the fires of war between people of the United States and Kurdish people across this region," Pence told the president. Pence also said he wished the Kurds "a peaceful and prosperous future."

Pence also spoke to troops and reiterated his comments from Al-Asad Air Base, before serving turkey dinner to a group of U.S. troops along with his wife.

Pence's visit comes after nine witnesses testified in open impeachment hearings, including the vice president's adviser on Europe and Russia, Jennifer Williams.

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