Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Middle East nations to support the fight against terror Saturday then traveled to Iraq to meet with commanders as the U.S. prepares to cut its troops levels and begin to pull forces out of the cities.
The unannounced visit to Iraq on Saturday comes as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office and begin to implement what many expect will be an accelerated withdrawal of troops. During Obama’s presidential campaign, he said he wanted combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months, but he has also said he would listen to the advice of his commanders on the ground.
A security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq mandates that combat forces leave the cities by next June, and leave Iraq in three years.
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Spa in Manama, Bahrain, where the International Institute for Strategic Studies is opening a regional security summit, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. Gates met briefly with other senior officials participating in the Manama Dialogue, where Gulf Arab states’ concerns about Persian Iran as well as piracy and maritime security are expected to be among concerns addressed.(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Earlier in Bahrain, Gates urged Middle East nations to help fight the spread of violent extremism by funding and training Afghan security forces and reaching out more aggressively to the fledgling government in Iraq.
Gates also assured the gathering of Persian Gulf leaders in Bahrain that Obama will continue the U.S. commitment to the Middle East, including efforts to fight terrorism and develop a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
And as the lone Republican holdover from the Bush Cabinet to the Obama team, Gates issued a public warning that any effort by terrorists to test the new administration would be a mistake because there has been extensive planning to ensure a smooth transition.
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