Well fancy that - Politician Visits Troops at Xmas - note that he states this was planned and not in response to the recent attack in Mosul (.....or indeed those electronic signatures perhaps?) From the BBC News Website Rumsfeld is keen to express his concern for US troops in Iraq US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is on an unannounced Christmas Eve trip to Iraq. He visited US bases in Mosul, days after an attack there killed 22 people, and near Falluja, the city retaken from insurgents last month. He said he had come to thank the troops and wish them a "Merry Christmas". Mr Rumsfeld has faced criticism over the conduct of the war in recent weeks, and was grilled by US troops during a visit to Kuwait earlier this month. He has made a number such trips since the start of war, but the BBC's Michael Buchanan in Washington says this is arguably the most important one. Mr Rumsfeld has been accused of showing insufficient respect for the military, after recently admitting using a machine to sign condolence letters to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq. Following his visit to the military hospital at Mosul early on Friday, Mr Rumsfeld addressed troops from the first brigade of the US army's 25th Infantry Division. "I am deeply grateful to all of you. You will look back in 10 or 20 or 30 years and know you were a part of something very important," he said. He added that he remained confident of defeating the insurgency and stabilising Iraq. The defence secretary later went to Tikrit, the hometown of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and then to a US base near Falluja. There he visited marines who took part in last month's major offensive against the insurgents who held the city. In other developments: UN officials say international observers monitoring the elections due next month will be based in Jordan rather than Iraq itself, owing to security reasons Iraqi government officials urge residents of Falluja to return to the devastated city, which was recently retaken from insurgents Fresh attacks by insurgents against US and Iraqi forces are reported in the Baquba area, north of Baghdad Mr Rumsfeld said the trip had been planned for a while and was not in direct response to Tuesday's blast in a crowded dining hall at the US base. Thirteen US troops, five US civilian contractors, and four Iraqis died in the attack, the worst so far against Americans since the removal of Saddam Hussein. RUMSFELD'S ROUGH MONTH 17 Dec: Admits using a machine to sign Iraq condolence letters Mid-Dec: Criticised by top Republicans Trent Lott and John McCain 8 Dec: Grilled by US marines over Iraq equipment Profile: Donald Rumsfeld Another 70 Americans were wounded. Most of them have now been airlifted to US military hospitals in Germany. Gen Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "an improvised explosive device worn by an attacker" was the most likely cause of the explosion. The US military says the bomber was wearing an Iraqi military uniform. Mr Rumsfeld has faced questions about how security at the Mosul base could have been breached and troops left vulnerable. The defence secretary said on Wednesday he was truly saddened by claims that he was failing in his duty to protect the troops. "I hope and pray that every family member of those who have died so bravely knows how deeply I feel their loss," he said. Senior Republicans have been openly questioning President George W Bush's decision to keep Mr Rumsfeld at the Pentagon for his second term. On 8 December, the defence secretary received a public grilling from US marines in Kuwait, who alleged that scrap metal was being used to armour vehicles employed in Iraq.