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.