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Online edition, Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TALIL, Iraq — Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced stop in Iraq on Tuesday, extending his visit to the Middle East by dropping in on U.S. forces here.

Gates planned to visit one of the first brigade combat teams to be re-designated as an advisory and assistance brigade, or AAB.

Pentagon officials have said that an AAB has fewer combat forces and more trainers and functional troops, such as engineers and logisticians.

The designation is important because it allows the troops more freedom of movement in Iraq’s cities.

The U.S. pulled most combat troops from cities before June 30, complying with U.S.-Iraq security agreement.

In July, the Pentagon announced it was deploying the first AABs from the U.S., a preview of the type of U.S. units that will remain in Iraq after combat troops are removed in the fall of next year.

“The purpose of going to Talil is so the secretary can get an understanding of the advisory and assistance brigades that are sort of being developed,” a senior defense official told reporters in Washington on Friday. “This is what eventually we will be left with when we have a transitional force come September of 2010.”

The Pentagon has said it would leave roughly six AABs in Iraq after that deadline.

Gates will meet with Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, as well as brigade, battalion and company commanders at the Command Division Operations Center.

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