President Bush is on a surprise trip to Iraq ahead of the coming report to Congress by General Petraeus. He is meeting with the government and front-line commanders to assess both the effectiveness of the surge, and the recent gains towards political unity within the country.
He met with Prime Minister Al Maliki in Anbar province in the heart of Sunni country to demonstrate that the new unity is not an illusion.
President Bush and his national security team made a first-hand assessment of the war in Iraq and prospects for political reconciliation Monday before a showdown with Congress over the U.S. troop buildup.The president secretly flew 12 hours to this dusty air base in a remote part of Anbar province, bypassing Baghdad in a symbolic expression of impatience with political paralysis in the nation’s capital. The gesture underscored the U.S. belief that the spark for progress may come at the local level.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived ahead of Bush and conferred with senior U.S. officials, including Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, before a session with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and other top Iraqi officials from Baghdad.
To a large degree, the setting was the message: Bringing al-Maliki, a Shiite, to the heart of mostly Sunni Anbar province was intended to show the administration’s war critics that the beleaguered Iraqi leader is capable of reaching out to Sunnis, who ran the country for years under Saddam Hussein.
The temperature topped 110 degrees as Bush stepped off Air Force One. The president stopped at a small building where a Marine Cobra pilot briefed him about the positives and negatives of current troop rotations. He told the president that troops were not getting enough time at home and did not have enough time for training.
“Morale?” asked Bush. “How’s morale?”
“Very high sir,” the pilot, Capt. Lee Hemming, said
More at Jammie Wearing Fool, it appears the left bloggers aren’t liking this at all. Signs of peace? Signs of progress in Iraq? In their coldly-calculated political power world, that’s bad. More at Jules Crittendon.