Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Iraq on Wednesday to meet with U.S. troops as they formally close down their combat mission.
The Pentagon chief's plane landed at Al-Asad Air Base, about 100 miles west of Baghdad, just a few hours after President Barack Obama told Americans it was time to "turn the page" on Iraq.
Gates and his entourage then traveled to Camp Ramadi, home of one of the U.S. military's new advisory brigades.
Fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down from more than 165,000 at the height of the fighting. The remaining forces' primary role is to help train and equip Iraqi forces over the next year.
Lt. Col. Buddy Houston, deputy brigadier commander of the 4/3 Advise and Assist Brigade, said there have been no incidents in the last 14 months where Iraqis asked for direct combat help.
Even though Ramadi is in the heart of Anbar province, the cradle of the Sunni insurgency against the initial U.S. occupation, Houston said, "I can't imagine a violent situation where we would have to go back in and re-engage."
Houston said he didn't anticipate, "even under the worst-case scenario," that a civil war could break out in Iraq as U.S. troops leave.
Gates flew to Iraq from Milwaukee, where he told an American Legion audience Tuesday that Iraq's problems had not all been solved.
Still, he expressed "pride on what our troops and their Iraqi partners have accomplished."
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