Gates to examine role of US troops in IraqBy DPA, IANS
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
BAGHDAD - US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates arrived in Iraq Tuesday on an unannounced visit to examine the future role of the US military in Iraq.
According to Iraqi government sources, Gates met with Iraqi and US security and military commanders at the US military base of Talil, near the southern Iraqi city of al-Nasseriya in the afternoon.
Gates, who arrived in Iraq after visits to Israel and Jordan, is expected to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials.
The Qatar-based al-Jazeera news channel said the officials are expected to discuss Baghdad’s interest in acquiring US fighter jets to counter possible threats from neighbouring nations after US forces leave the country.
Gates’ visit comes less than a week after al-Maliki’s visit to the US, where - according to local Iraqi media - the Iraqi prime minister spoke on issues including Iraqi reconciliation and the need to upgrade the country’s air force.
Gates’ arrival was the second public visit by a top US official to Iraq following the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities June 30.
On June 4, US Vice President Joe Biden celebrated US Independence Day with his country’s troops in Iraq, presiding over a ceremony to confer citizenship to hundreds of non-US nationals fighting with the US military in Iraq.
Gates, whose last visit to Iraq was in September 2008, is also expected to visit Iraq’s Kurdish region and to meet Massoud Barzani, incumbent president of the Kurdistan semi-autonomous region.