U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid surprise visits to Iraq Wednesday, for meetings with the country's new prime minister-designate.
Afterwards, Rumsfeld said he came away from the meeting with Jawad al- Maliki "most impressed." Rice said it was very clear to her that Mr. Maliki understands the role of the new government in creating national unity.
Rice arrived in Baghdad from Turkey, hours after Rumsfeld landed for meetings with U.S. generals and top Iraqi leaders.
Earlier, Army General George Casey said he remains on track to recommend cutting U.S. troop levels this year. He did not offer specifics. But last year he forecast a "fairly substantial" cut in U.S. troop strength in 2006.
Rumsfeld said future U.S. troop withdrawals will depend on the effectiveness of the new Iraqi government in the weeks ahead.
In a videotape released Tuesday, Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, ridiculed the new Baghdad government and vowed his guerrillas will defeat the United States.
The video is believed to be the first to show Zarqawi's face. It shows a bearded man dressed in black and wearing a military vest. U.S. intelligence officials say they believe it is Zarqawi.