President Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Tuesday, marking his first visit to the nation since being elected to office last November. Obama was expected to return to the White House today following a whirlwind tour of Europe, but instead Air Force One flew to Baghdad, where violence has flared up this week.
With bad weather impacting visibility, Obama nixed plans to tour the sprawling Green Zone, but was able to meet with troops at Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport.
Our men and women who are in harm's way, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, deserve our utmost respect and appreciation, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told the New York Times.
Despite having signaled that the US military focus will shift to Afghanistan, Obama reportedly told Gen. Ray Odierno, his top army commander in Iraq, that the job there is not yet finished. According to reports, Obama praised political progress in the country but said the gains could be erased in the upcoming national elections.
While the president made the rounds in Europe last week, gathering with world leaders in London before moving onto Strasbourg and Prague, violence in Iraq raised concerns that the Iraqi army may not be sufficiently skilled to maintain order as the American presence winds down. On Monday, a series of coordinated bombings terrorized Baghdad, killing 37 and leaving more than 100 wounded.
Iraqi leaders blamed the violence on supporters of former dictator Saddam Hussein, helped by Al Qaeda terrorists.
Obama will consult by phone with Iraqi officials, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Iraq will almost assuredly be the last stop on the President's historic trip. Last Thursday at the G20 meeting in London, Obama, along with the other leaders of the world's most powerful economies, pledged continued efforts to get the world out of the current downturn.
At a NATO meeting in Strasbourg, Obama tried to mend fences after America's unilateral approach to foreign relations under the Bush Administration. And in Prague, the president pledged efforts toward nuclear disarmament during his time in office.
Then Monday, Obama visited Turkey, telling lawmakers that he stood behind their bid to join the European Union.
The president also stressed that the U.S. remains a friend to the Muslim world, even as the country fights Islamic terrorism.
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