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Gates in Iraq to Meet Maliki and U.S. Commanders

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Gates in Iraq to Meet Maliki and U.S. Commanders

By ELISABETH BUMILLER and MARC SANTORA
Published: December 10, 2009

BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates landed here Thursday on an unannounced visit to meet with President Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq and to consult with American military commanders as they prepare for withdrawals of American forces beginning in the spring.

Mr. Gates arrived as Baghdad was still reeling from bombings on Tuesday that, according to American commanders, killed 127 people in five coordinated attacks.

Mr. Maliki spent part of Thursday afternoon pleading with lawmakers to set aside political differences that he said were undermining security, according to lawmakers who took part in a special session of Parliament called in the wake of the bombings.

Pentagon officials traveling with Mr. Gates and American military officials in Baghdad said that neither the bombings nor the delay of Iraqi national elections until March would alter the plans for withdrawal of more than 50,000 American troops from Iraq next year.

Mr. Gates was not in Baghdad “to point out any flaws” in Iraqi security in the wake of the bombings, Pentagon officials said, although Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., the second-ranking American commanding general in Iraq, told reporters on Thursday that “there were vulnerabilities that were exposed by the terrorists, obviously.”

Mr. Gates flew to Baghdad from Kabul, where he met earlier on Thursday with top Afghan military leaders. He told them that even though the United States planned to begin withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by July 2011, “we will have a large number of forces here for some period beyond that.”

Mr. Gates also noted that both Afghans and Americans had made sacrifices in the war in Afghanistan,. “so this is a relationship forged in blood.”

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