Panetta in Iraq to see officials, commanders

July 10, 2011 - 11:14 AM

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in Iraq for his first visit as Pentagon chief.

He flew in to Baghdad on a military flight from southern Afghanistan, where he met with Marines.

Panetta is using his Iraq stop to meet a range of Iraqi government leaders for talks about whether a sizable U.S. military force will remain beyond the end of this year.

He also plans to meet with U.S. troops and commanders, including Gen. Lloyd Austin, the most senior American commander in Iraq.

Panetta, who was President Barack Obama's CIA director, just succeeded Robert Gates as defense secretary. Aides say Panetta visited Iraq twice while he led the CIA.