June 16, 2007

Gates in Baghdad

Image taken on June 15 showing empty
streets in Iraqs Green Zone following a
curfew a day after the bombing of a
revered Shiite shrine in Samarra.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made an unannounced visit to Baghdad to assess a U.S. troop build-up and press Iraq's government to move faster in passing laws that Washington views as critical to reconciling Iraqis.

In a statement that clearly indicates that Washington is disappointed with Iraqi progress, Gates said to reporters, "Frankly, we're disappointed with the progress so far, and hope that this most recent bombing by Al-Qaeda won't further disrupt or delay the process".

The U.S. military said on Friday it had completed its troop build-up to 160,000 soldiers. Nearly 30,000 extra troops have been sent to Iraq, mainly to secure Baghdad and give the Shi'ite-led government time to reach a political accommodation with minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

In its latest report on Iraq published this week, the Pentagon said it was too soon to assess the military crackdown. While violence was down in Baghdad, the overall level was unchanged in Iraq because militants had simply moved their bases outside the capital, it said.

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