BAGHDAD, Iraq – Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked with Iraqi officials on Thursday about possible additional military assistance for the embattled government and assured them of continued U.S. support.
Briefing reporters after his session with Iraqi leaders, Gates said the focus of the discussions was "mainly on the overall approach, including the possibility of some additional assistance." But he was vague about the type of assistance discussed, and said no specific numbers of extra troops were discussed.
"We were really talking in broad terms," he said.
The new defense chief is visiting Iraq with a high-level entourage in his first week in office to assess ways to calm growing violence in the country. President Bush is considering sending thousands more U.S. troops, and is expected to unveil his new policy next month.
"The Iraqi government is determined to improve the security of the people here in Iraq, and above all here in Baghdad," said Gates, after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Defense Minister Abdul Qadir and members of the Iraqi Security Council.
"Our discussions today were focused on how the United States can be helpful in the Iraqi government's efforts to accomplish that goal," Gates said.