Bush Arrives in Iraq for a Final Visit
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By STEVEN LEE MYERS
Published: December 14, 2008
BAGHDAD — President Bush flew to Iraq on Sunday, a final trip to highlight the recently completed security agreement between Iraq and the United States.
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President Bush with Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, in Baghdad on Sunday.
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Air Force One arrived in Baghdad at 4 p.m. after a 10-and-a-half-hour overnight flight from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. It was his fourth visit to Iraq, a country that occupied the bulk of his presidency and will to a large extent define his legacy.
On arriving, he met the two senior American officials, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno on the tarmac. He is expected to meet with Iraqi leaders and American troops.
As with previous visits — in November 2003, June 2006 and September 2007 — preparations for the visit were cloaked in secrecy and carried out with ruse. The White House schedule for Sunday had Mr. Bush attending the “Christmas in Washington” performance at the National Building Museum in downtown Washington.
Mr. Bush instead left the White House by car on Saturday night, arriving at Andrews at 9 p.m. Air Force One remained inside its immaculate hangar until moments before taking off. A dozen journalists accompanying him were only told of the trip on Friday and allowed to tell only a superior and a spouse — and only in person.
Mr. Bush and his aides have touted the security agreement as a landmark in Iraq’s troubled history, one made possible by the dramatic drop in violence over the last year. They credit the large increase in American troops Mr. Bush ordered in 2007 for creating enough security to allow political progress to take root.
The new security agreements, which take effect on Jan. 1, replace the United Nations Security Council resolutions that authorized the presence of foreign troops in Iraq. Iraqi officials extracted significant concessions from the Bush administration over several months of hard bargaining, including a commitment to withdrawal all American forces by the end of 2011.