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Cheney Visits Iraq Ahead of Five-Year Anniversary of U.S. Operations

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2008 – Vice President Richard B. Cheney arrived in Iraq today to deliver a message to Iraqis and meet with top U.S. officials ahead of the five-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

At the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Cheney told reporters President Bush asked him to visit with Iraqi officials to thank them for their leadership and to re-assert U.S. support.

“The president asked me … to reaffirm to the Iraqi people the unwavering commitment of the United States to support them in finishing the difficult work that lies ahead, and to consolidate and strengthen their democracy,” he said.

Cheney, on his second visit to Iraq, said the country’s lawmakers have worked on legislation that will be vital to shaping Iraq’s future. He also noted a dramatic improvement in Iraq’s security situation.

This time last year, the fifth and final U.S. combat brigade deployed to Iraq as part of a 33,000-troop surge designed to tamp down violence in Iraq and help prepare Iraq’s national forces to maintain security. The effort is considered by officials to be a largely successful U.S. strategic military shift.

In addition to meeting in Iraq with Maliki, Cheney today said he looks forward to seeing Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker. Petraeus and Crocker are tentatively scheduled to provide a status report to Congress on April 8 and 9.

The timing of Cheney’s surprise trip is significant, as this week marks the fifth year since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein and set Iraqis on the road to democracy, he said.

“I was last in Baghdad 10 months ago, and I can sense as a result of the progress that's been made since then that there have been some phenomenal changes, in terms of the overall situation, both with respect to the security situation, where Iraqi and American forces have done some very good work, as well as with respect to political developments here in Iraq,” the vice president said.

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