Wrapping up his first visit to Iraq as U.S. defense secretary, Leon Panetta is meeting with the president of the Kurdish regional government, Massoud Barzani.
Panetta is expected to stress the urgency of the Iraqi government filling two key positions _ those responsible for the army and the police. Lacking leaders in those positions has kept Iraq from deciding whether it wants U.S. troops to stay beyond their scheduled final departure in December.
The Kurds are one of three main groups sharing government power in Baghdad, along with the Sunnis and the majority Shiites.
A final drawdown of the 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is to begin in August and be completed by December 31.
Panetta was returning to Washington after his Barzani meeting.