Obama makes unannounced trip to Iraq

(AP) - Unannounced and shielded by heavy security,President Barack Obama flew to Iraq on Tuesday for a brief inspection of a war he opposed as a candidate and now vows to end as commander in chief. "There is still a lot of work to do here," he declared.

Arriving not long after a deadly car bomb exploded across town, Obama spoke favorably of political progress being made in Iraq but also expressed concern that recent gains could deteriorate with the upcoming national elections.

About an hour after arriving, Obama met with about 600 of the 139,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. Aides said he was presenting combat medals to 10 of them.

In office only 11 weeks, Obama has already announced plans to withdraw most U.S. combat troops on a 19-month timetable. The drawdown is to begin slowly, so American forces can provide security for Iraqi elections, then accelerate in 2010. As many as50,000 troops are expected to remain in the country at the end of the 19 months to perform counterterrorism duties.

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