Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Thursday. He arrived in Iraq after spending several days in Kabul, where he briefed top commanders on President Obama's new plan to flood Afghanistan with 30,000 new troops, and met with Afghan generals and other military officials to reassure them that although the U.S. will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011, "a large number" of troops would remain for "some period beyond that." Gates' trip was planned before Tuesday's spate of bombings in Baghdad, which killed at least 127 people and wounded more than 500. Al Qaeda's umbrella organization in Iraq claimed credit for the attacks. While in Baghdad, Gates will meet with top Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, offer condolences to victims of the violence, and urge Iraqi political leaders to swiftly form a new government after parliamentary elections on March 7 to limit the potential for instability.
Diplomacy Dept. of Defense / AP Photo