Defense Chief Hopes to Continue Iraq Troop Withdrawals

Aboard a military aircraft (AP) Defense secretary Robert Gates says he hopes to be able to continuine reducing the number of U.S. Troops in Iraq for the rest of the year.

Gates' comments today come amid a military debate over whether the current drawdown should be put on hold next july. Gates says he thinks a “brief pause” will be necessary to evaluate security in
Iraq and figure out the pacing of additional troop reductions. But he indicates he hopes to resume it fairly quickly.

Gates spoke to reporters on his plane today en route to meetings in Australia. That country's new leaders have vowed to withdraw all their combat troops from Iraq this year. Gates says he shares
Australia's concerns about troops stress.