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Nobody is boss or occupier, says Gates in Iraq

Article published on the 2009-07-28 Latest update 2009-07-28 10:21 TU

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates speaks in Amman on 27 July, 2009(Photo: Reuters)

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates speaks in Amman on 27 July, 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates touched down in southern Iraq on Tuesday in a surprise visit to overview US troops who serve there primarily as advisers to Iraqi forces. He met with US and Iraqi officers who have been working together in the area since 15 July.

"Nobody's the boss or the occupier," said Gates, describing the relationship between the two countries on the ground. At Tallil Military Base, the US advisors are considered a litmus test for US forces as they shift from combat to advisory roles.

In September, the1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division will arrive in the country as the first brigade trained to only advise, not to go to the front lines.

The Obama administration is closely watching the progress of Tallil as part of the draw down of US forces in the country that begins in 2010. The swiftness of the draw down-- and ultimately, the US withdrawal in 2011- depends also on general elections throughout Iraq slated for January and the progress in resolving ongoing sectarian violence.

"We're saying to all the parties involved that they have this window of opportunity that they need to seize between now and the end of 2011," a senior US official told reporters before Gates touched down in Tallil.

Gates met with US and Iraqi commanders on Tuesday and plans to meet with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. He plans on visiting the Kurdish region of the country as well.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, eight police guards died in a deadly bank heist on Tuesday as armed robbers took at least 2.7 million euros. The money had reportedly been earmarked for salaries for policemen who work in the interior ministry.

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