(AP) Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates, on his second trip to Iraq in less than a month, arrived unannounced Friday in this southern city to consult with British and other allied commanders.
Britain, which has the largest troop contingent among the U.S. allies, with about 7,000 soldiers in the Basra area, is planning to withdraw a large portion of them this year.
Gates said at the outset of his weeklong overseas trip that he realized the security situation in southern Iraq is different than in Baghdad, where the U.S. is building up its troop strength, reports Trend.
Gates was meeting with Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, as well as Maj. Gen. Jonathan Shaw, the newly arrived commander of British forces here. Later Gates was to meet with commanders from Poland, Australia, Denmark and Romania, and have lunch with coalition troops who are training the Iraqi army.
On his first visit to Iraq after being sworn in on Dec. 18, Gates met in Baghdad with U.S. commanders and Iraqi government leaders just weeks before President Bush announced his new strategy for Iraq, which includes sending an additional 21,500 troops to Baghdad and the western Anbar region.