BREAKING NOW: Obama Makes A Surprise Trip To Iraq
Fresh on the heels of his trip to Turkey, President Barack Obama made an unannounced trip to Iraq — a country where the war has settled into a kind of un-normal normalcy enough that Obama has been able to put the focus when he talks about war on the war in Afghanistan:
President Obama made an unannounced trip to Baghdad on Tuesday, punctuating his week-long overseas trip with a stop to talk to American troops and to Iraqi leaders.
Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport under heavy security at 4:42 in the afternoon; military officials shut down the airport.
Aboard the plane, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that Mr. Obama decided to visit the troops because he was nearby on a state visit to Turkey and because wanted to show his appreciation to the troops.
“Our men and women who are in harm’s way, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, deserve our utmost respect and appreciation,” Mr. Gibbs said. He said that Mr. Obama had planned to take a helicopter from the airport into the city to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, but that poor weather conditions meant that they would instead likely talk only by telephone.
Suspicions were high that Mr. Obama would go to either Afghanistan or Iraq at the end of his trip, but White House officials kept the plans under a tight lock.
Then why Iraq and not Afghanistan? White House spokesman offered this answer:
Asked why Obama had come to Iraq, Gibbs said “there are several important reasons, not the least of which is to see and spend some time with the men and women who are serving our country honorably here.”
Less than three months into his presidency, Obama was intent on reassuring U.S. commanders he shares their concerns over preserving security gains and making sure troops do not feel forgotten as their numbers are drawn down.
The sectarian warfare and insurgency unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion have receded dramatically over the past year, but Iraqi security forces still face huge challenges as they take on policing and military operations from the United States.
During his brief visit, Obama was to meet with General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, address troops at Camp Victory, and speak to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.
“We all know that throughout the next many months the solution to the challenges of Iraq lie in political solution,” Gibbs said. “That’s why the president is anxious to talk to Prime Minister al-Maliki and President Talabani.”
Scaling back troop levels in Iraq will help Obama boost troop numbers in Afghanistan to tackle worsening violence. He had accused Bush of being too fixated on Iraq to focus on the more vital fight against Islamic militancy in Afghanistan.
So far no news of shoe throwing..