Four American troops were killed on Thursday in Iraq's western province of Anbar, the U.S. military said on Friday. "Three Marines and one sailor assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Thursday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province," the U.S. military said in a statement, cited by Reuters.
The latest deaths came as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates exchanged views with Iraqi leaders Thursday about boosting military assistance for the government. Gates also warned Iraq's neighbors that the U.S. will be a presence in the Persian Gulf for a long time.
Speaking to reporters after meetings with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials, Gates said the talks were "mainly on the overall approach, including the possibility of some additional assistance." He said no numbers of additional troops were discussed.
"We were really talking in broad terms," said Gates, according to the AP.
In the meetings, Gates said he discussed how "with Iraqis in the lead, we can best play a supporting role" in helping bring order to the country. He said he assured the Iraqis of "the steadfastness of American support and our enduring presence in the Persian Gulf."
Earlier in the day, he said Iran and Syria are playing a negative role in the violence. "We need to make damned sure that the neighbors understand that we're going to be here for a long time - here being the Persian Gulf," said Gates, during a morning meeting with soldiers.