US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates arrived on a surprise visit to Iraq early Wednesday, even as the US Army officially ended its combat mission there.
Gates was scheduled to attend the change of command ceremony for the head of US forces in Iraq. General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq since taking over from General David Petraeus in 2008 is stepping down to be replaced by Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin.
President Barack Obama late Tuesday officially announced the end of the US combat mission in Iraq. US forces are now down to less than 50,000 with only an advisory and training mission left.