Prime Minister Scott Morrison has paid a surprise pre-Christmas visit to Australian troops in Iraq to personally thank them for their service.
Mr Morrison flew into the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad accompanied by Chief of Defence General Angus Campbell.
It’s his first visit to the Middle East since becoming Prime Minister in August.
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Around 800 Australian Defence Force personnel are currently serving in Iraq where they’ve been training local forces in their fight against Islamic State.
Mr Morrison spent time chatting with soldiers, taking selfies and handing out Christmas presents.
He acknowledged the sacrifice they are making as they prepare to spend Christmas away from family and friends.
Mr Morrison told the troops that all Australians are grateful for what they do, especially at this time of year.
“They know you’re here doing your job, and this is where you do your job and you know that,” Mr Morrison said.
“But that does mean for many of you, it means the first time that you haven’t been there with your kids at Christmas, the first time you haven’t been there with your wife or your girlfriend or your parents.
“I understand it’s a sacrifice, I understand it’s a big thing to be away from our family at this time of year and that’s why I’ve decided to come just to
say thank you from one Australian to another.
“On behalf of my family, to you and your families, I want to say thank you very much for your service,” Mr Morrison said.
“But I also want to thank you as a prime minister, as the leader of the government, as a member of the Australian Parliament, on behalf of our entire nation.”
Mr Morrison also met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Mr Abdul-Mahidi stressed to Mr Morrison the importance of stability in the region and on improving Iraq’s economic performance.
The Prime Minister’s visit came as US President Donald Trump declared that Islamic State had been defeated in Syria, ordering the withdrawal of US troops.
Around 2,000 US soldiers are serving in the region with their withdrawal expected to be completed within 100 days.