Gates Backs Pause in Iraq Troop Pullout
Defense secretary sees need to stabilize gains after 'al-Qaeda routed'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2008 7:06 AM CST
In this photo provided by the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, Commanding General Multi National Force Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Iraqi National Security Advisor...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates today backed a "pause" in pulling out US forces from Iraq once the 30,000  troops added for the surge are sent home in July. “The notion of a brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does make sense,” Gates told reporters during a surprise visit to Baghdad today. How long a period? “That’s one of the things we are still thinking about.”

Gates’ comments echo those of Gen. David Petraeus, who told CNN late last month he’d like to “let things settle a bit” before drawing down further. But Gates said he’d been “headed in that direction” even before the Petraeus comments. The defense secretary praised the Army for a "pretty remarkable" turnaround—"Al-Qaeda routed, insurgents co-opted, levels of violence of all kinds dramatically reduced"—but said the situation remained fragile.