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.