by Brian Mooar
President Bush staged a surprise visit to Iraq Monday, hoping to dramatically drive home his point that the U-S troop surge is working.
The President, joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, arrived at a secure air base in al Anbar Province, the one time insurgent stronghold that has seen a recent drop in violence as the U-S troop presence increased.
It's a pre-emptive message delivered a week before General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker give Congress their long-awaited assessment on the effectiveness of the surge.
The President is facing increasing pressure to pull the troops out, not only from Democrats but from Republicans who want to keep their jobs, and the White House.
Bush also came to meet with Iraqi leaders, from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki down to tribal leaders, and prod them to pick up the pace of political reconciliation.
White House officials deny this is photo opportunity.
They say it's an opportunity for the President to get an in-person, on-the-ground assessment of what's really happening in Iraq.