Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom President-elect Barack Obama has asked to stay on in his current position, today suggested he is open to speeding up U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, two of Obama's stated goals.
As the Associated Press reports, Gates said in a press conference that military commanders are now looking at how they might pull troops out in accordance with the 16-month timetable pushed by Obama during his presidential campaign.
"Commanders are already looking at what the implications of that are in terms of the potential for accelerating the drawdown and in terms of how we meet our obligations to the Iraqis," Gates said.
As the AP notes, "although he has repeatedly insisted that any drawdown in Iraq must be based on security conditions there, Gates said he now finds the 16-month time frame agreeable, since Obama has said he will listen to his commanders and pull forces out responsibly." He pointed out that the new security agreement in Iraq had changed the situation for the U.S.
The only Republican thus far named to Obama's cabinet also said he would work with Congress on legislation resulting in the closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility.
And he addressed the fact that for the past two years, he has talked repeatedly of his intension to leave Washington at the end of President Bush's term.
"I guess I would say that I was engaged in my own form of strategic deterrence," Gates said, according to the AP. "It was my hope that if I made enough noise about how much I did not want to stay here and how much I wanted to go back to the Northwest that I wouldn't have to worry about the question ever being asked." But when asked, he said, he could not say no.