President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would "gladly" visit U.S. troops at combat zones overseas "at some point" after being asked why he hasn't yet made such a trip after nearly two years in office.
"I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly," Trump told the Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview.
The president has faced criticism for not visiting U.S. troops at combat zones overseas — despite such trips being a bipartisan practice going back to World War II — although, Trump argued, he would gladly make the trip even though he doesn't think it's "overly necessary."
He's arguably right. As I wrote previously on Twitter, the practice of presidential visits to war zones are often nothing more than what troops call "dog and pony shows" that are mostly photo ops, requiring the diversion of troops and resources away from a mission in order to receive the commander-in-chief.
Still, President Barack Obama visited troops in Iraq in 2008 as a senator and visited again as president after three months in office, while making four total trips to Afghanistan. President George W. Bush, meanwhile, met with troops in Baghdad about 9 months after the invasion of Iraq, ultimately making two trips to Afghanistan and four trips to Iraq, according to Business Insider.
Trump has visited stateside troops on a number of occasions, but has not yet made an appearance for troops in combat. Vice President Mike Pence, however, made an unannounced visit to meet troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan before Christmas in 2017.
Here is the full question and answer:
AP: On the subject of American soldiers and military overseas, why have you not yet visited a military base in a combat zone like in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Trump: Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary. I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. I mean, this is the greatest economy we’ve ever had, best unemployment numbers. Many groups are, you know, we’ve never even been close to these numbers. I’m doing a lot of things. I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly. Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years. I just got them a substantial pay raise. ‘They’ meaning our military people. I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it. I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.