The new U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert
Gates, visited with troops in Baghdad and held meetings with top Iraqi
officials on the second day of a trip to Iraq. His visit comes as
President Bush is considering whether to send as many as 30,000 more
troops to Iraq to help quell growing sectarian violence. VOA's Margaret
Besheer has more on the secretary's visit from
Secretary Gates told reporters he asked the
soldiers for what advice they might have for him. He said like most people
on the front lines of a battle they would like to have more troops, but he
said there are many factors that will ultimately go into that decision.
"We have to take into account the views of the Iraqi government, the
views of our own leadership, the views of our own military leadership in
taking that into account," he said.
But he was vague on whether the Iraqi government wanted more American
"I would say what we discussed is how we can help the Iraqi government
in establishing better security here in Baghdad," he added. "I can say
that no numbers of additional troops or of troops were discussed. The
focus was mainly on an overall approach, including the possibility of some
additional assistance. But as I say, we really did not discuss any numbers
we were talking in broader terms than that."
The secretary will make his recommendations to President Bush when he
returns to Washington. He said he has learned a lot during his meetings
which will help him formulate his advice to the president.
Thursday, Gates met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's
defense minister, and the Iraqi Security Council. He said the meetings
were very positive, and that the United States and Iraq are partners in
"The success of our partnership cannot happen without the security of
the Iraqi people," he noted. "To that end we discussed a wide range of
options, and as we said yesterday, 'all options are on the table'."
The urgent need for improved security was apparent when a suicide
bomber wearing an explosives-filled vest blew himself up in eastern
Baghdad. Officials say more than a dozen people were killed and more than
a dozen wounded, many of them police officers and recruits at the Baghdad