Gates Warns of 'Protracted' Iraq Stay

Troops will remain to support government, Defense chief says
By Heather McPherson,  Newser User
Posted Aug 6, 2007 10:01 AM CDT
In this photograph provided by "Meet the Press," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appears on "Meet the Press'" Sunday, Aug. 5, 2007, at the NBC studios in Washington. (AP Photo/Meet The Press, Alex...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – US troops will likely remain in Iraq for a "protracted period of time," Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned yesterday. Soldiers would remain as a "stabilizing and supporting force" for the government long after combat troop numbers are reduced, he said in a CNN interview. Gates couldn't say when such a drawdown of the 160,000 soldiers would begin.

He said he preferred to await next month's vaunted security assessment by the US ambassador to Iraq and top military commander. The recent troop surge has helped quell some violence, Gates contended, but politically the "picture is quite mixed." A general last week predicted that the US would be needed in Iraq "a few more years."