US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will use his latest unannounced trip to Iraq to assess whether the downturn in violence in parts of the country can be sustained, and whether Iran is working to quell the shipment of arms into Iraq, officials said Wednesday as the Pentagon chief made his sixth visit to the country.
Senior US defense officials said the jury is still out on both fronts, and the Pentagon is being cautious not to declare victory yet in either case.
As an example, one senior defense official traveling with the secretary said that any proposal to move US Marines out of Iraq and into a greater role in Afghanistan, as proposed not long ago by Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway, will be viewed cautiously by Gates.
Gates arrived in Mosul at midmorning Wednesday and planned a full day of meetings with his military commanders and Iraqi officials.
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