Secretary Gates says he wants to get a first-hand report on efforts
to improve intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities in Iraq, one of
his main efforts in recent months. He also wants to see the impact of
the withdrawal of the five surge brigades President Bush ordered to
Iraq last year, a withdrawal that reduced U.S. combat power in the
country by 25 per cent.
On route to Iraq, Secretary Gates told reporters on his aircraft that
with the end of the surge, the conflict is moving to a new phase.
Secretary Gates said the surge enabled commanders to deploy American
troops to areas where they had not been before, to defeat insurgents
and hold the ground.
During this visit, Secretary Gates will preside over a change of
command ceremony marking the end of the tenure of General David
Petraeus as commander of coalition forces. General Petraeus'
leadership, and the new counterinsurgency doctrine he helped write, are
widely credited with turning the tide of the Iraq war.