Panetta to Iraq: Decide on US Troop Extension

Defense secretary makes unannounced visit to Baghdad
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 10, 2011 12:42 PM CDT
Leon Panetta to Iraq: Decide on US Troop Extension
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta greets members of the helicopter medivac crew attached to the 115th Combat Support Hospital while making an unannounced visit to Camp Dwyer, Sunday July 10, 2011, in southern Afghanistan. Panetta visited troops in southern Afghanistan as part of his first trip...   (PAUL J. RICHARDS)

Fresh from his visit to Afghanistan, the AP is reporting that Leon Panetta made a surprise appearance in Baghdad today. The newly minted defense chief is looking to press the Iraqis to get off the fence on whether they want residual US forces to remain in the country after the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline. "I'll encourage them to make a decision," he told reporters before boarding his flight.

Panetta is mum on the White House's position on such an extension, but has said the US should consider any Iraqi request. He also planned to press Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki on the rash of Iranian-made explosives that have resulted in a spike in American deaths. (Read more Leon Panetta stories.)

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