In an unannounced visit to Iraq today, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he believed stability there is a reachable goal, even as car bombs claimed 23 lives in Baghdad and elsewhere, Reuters reports. "More than ever, I believe that the goal of a secure, stable, and democratic Iraq is within reach,” Gates told a Baghdad news conference.
"We need to be patient,” Gates said. “We also need to be absolutely resolved in our desire to see the nascent signs of hope across Iraq expand and flourish.” Gates urged the continued incorporation of Sunni neighborhood patrols into the army and police forces. The Iraqi administration earlier today announced that 45,000 patrol members would be on government payrolls by 2008.