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Defense Secretary Gates Says Troop Withdrawal In 2007 Possible

By Carolyn E. Price     Feb 6, 2007 in World
"I would hope that we would be able to begin drawing down our troops later this year."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was cautiously optimistic about the situation in Iraq during his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Gates assured lawmakers that the latest troop surge was "not the last chance" to succeed in Iraq. Gates told the Committee, "I would be irresponsible if I weren't thinking about what the alternatives might be," but he added, ""We at this point are planning for success."
Defense Secretary Gates, who did not specify what other options would be used if the current troop escalation did not crush the sectarian violence in Iraq, was guardedly optimistic that US could begin a phased withdrawal later this year.
"It seems to me that if the plan to quiet Baghdad is successful and the Iraqis step up" by providing promised forces of their own and move toward resolving the country's bitter political disputes, Gates said, "I would hope that we would be able to begin drawing down our troops later this year."
However, that assessment remains conditional upon whether the Iraqis can successfully assume security operations from U.S. troops. They also need to broker some kind of a political reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites to form a united, functioning national government.
Meanwhile, despite deep partisan divisions over the troop buildup and Bush's $624.6 billion request in defense spending, lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-0 to approve Adm. William Fallon's nomination to become top U.S. commander in the Middle East. Committee lawmakers also approved Gen. George Casey, who has been the top U.S. general in Iraq, as the next Army chief of staff, on a 14-3 vote.
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