Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned to Washington Sunday after his surprise trip to Iraq.
Rumsfeld’s press secretary, Eric Ruff, said the defense secretary did not meet with any Iraqi government officials — as has been his usual practice — before leaving the country around noon Sunday.
“It was not a public trip whatsoever,” Ruff said. The main purpose, he said, was to express thanks to the U.S. troops and their commanders.
Rumsfeld met over dinner Saturday with several top commanders, including Gen. George Casey and Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the two most senior commanders in Iraq. He also met with Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is in charge of the training of Iraqi security forces, and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who recently arrived to replace Chiarelli.
Ruff said Rumsfeld began Sunday in the Baghdad area, having breakfast with troops and attending a church service at Camp Victory, the main U.S. military command headquarters on the outskirts of the capital. He later held a town hall-style meeting with several hundred U.S. troops in the northern city of Mosul.
The only member of the media allowed to accompany Rumsfeld was Sean Hannity, a conservative Fox News Channel host. On all of his 14 previous trips to Iraq, as well as all other overseas trips, Rumsfeld has taken reporters who cover him regularly at the Pentagon. Ruff offered no reason why reporters were not invited this time, except to say that Rumsfeld viewed it as a “private” visit.
Rumsfeld remains defense secretary until Dec. 18.
Ruff said Bradley Graham, a Washington Post correspondent who previously covered the Pentagon for that newspaper and who is now writing a book about Rumsfeld, was invited on the trip but declined to go.