The US President has been on a surprise visit to Iraq to meet top US officials, generals and diplomats for a final review of the conflict before a showdown in Congress. George W. Bush said any reduction in troops would be based on calm military assessments and not the nervous reaction of politicians in Washington: “I am going to reassure them that America does not abandon our friends, that America will not abandon the Iraqi people. That’s the message all three of us bring.”
A veiled reference, so experts say, to the UK withdrawal of its troops from the centre of Basra yesterday. But while it’s all smiles on the surface, underneath, the Bush administration is worried. Mounting casualties in Iraq mean there is huge pressure at home for a withdrawal. A key report on the progress of the recent US troop surge is also due in a few days.
The Iraqi Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki was in Anbar to greet the US delegation, a trip which would have been unthinkable just months ago when the province was the most dangerous in Iraq for US troops. Bush now plans to attend the Asia-Pacific summit in Australia.