Iraqi guards stand in front of the Ministry of Defence during a visit from U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in Baghdad December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Wilson/Pool
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BAGHDAD: As the first American defense secretary to visit Iraq since the U.S. officially ended its long war three years ago, Chuck Hagel's message to Iraqi leaders was plain: U.S. military power didn't solve Iraq's problems last time, nor will it now.Hagel's remarks seemed intended to encourage the idea that the Iraqis' main focus should be on strengthening their own forces rather than appealing to Washington for a silver-bullet solution through U.S. firepower.While it encourages the Iraqi government to pull together, the U.S. is working to build an international coalition that would help rebuild the Iraqi army.Hagel was the first Pentagon chief to visit Iraq since Leon Panetta attended a ceremony in Baghdad in December 2011 that marked the end of the U.S. war and the final withdrawal of U.S. troops more than eight years after the U.S. invaded to topple President Saddam Hussein. The U.S. left believing it had put the Iraqi army on a solid footing, but it unraveled over time.There are now about 1,650 U.S. troops in Iraq.
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