Current and future Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said today that he supports President-elect Barack Obama’s Iraq policy, saying he is now “less concerned” about Obama’s campaign promise to have troops out of Iraq within 16 months.
Gates spent most of the past two years vehemently opposing any specific deadlines to end America’s already over five-year military commitment to Iraq. His opposition seems to have been ameliorated by Obama’s recent comments on a “responsible” drawdown and his promises to make the pullout dependent on the advice of military commanders.
Secretary Gates’ comments may well put the President-elect’s actual commitment to the timetable in doubt, particularly when coupled with reports that senior military commanders will advise Obama that his timetable is “physically impossible,”
On the other hand Gates seems to have managed to get Obama not to set a timetable on another topic: his position. Though many had speculated that Gates’ role in the new administration would be short-term until the Obama team was up to speed on the assorted wars it is inheriting, Gates says both parties agree that his reappointment will be “open-ended.”