Gates Says US Defeat Would Be a Disaster

The Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2007; 4:29 PM

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that a U.S. defeat in Iraq would be "disastrous" and President Bush's strategy deserves bipartisan support in Congress.

"The consequences of American failure in Iraq at this point would, I believe, be disastrous not just for Iraq but for the region, for the United States and for the world," Gates told a Pentagon news conference.

"No discussion of where and how we go from here can avoid this stark reality," he added.

Gates asserted that all senior military leaders fully agreed with the recommendations Gen. David Petraeus presented to Bush and to Congress, including his proposal to begin a modest troop withdrawal this year.

Seated beside Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the soon-to-retire chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gates said he deliberately kept quiet in public about his own opinions regarding a way forward in Iraq.

In his first public remarks since Bush's announcement of troop reductions in Iraq starting this month, Gates said he saw little likelihood that he would recommend that Bush accelerate the drawdown, as many in Congress have recommended.

He also made a point of noting that Petraeus, in his congressional testimony Monday and Tuesday, said troop reductions would continue beyond July 2008, although at a pace yet to be determined.

Gates also raised the possibility that some Army units in Iraq would not have to serve their full 15-month tours.

"Just looking at the mathematics of it, that's a possibility," he said.

Gates described the president's decision, announced Thursday evening, as representing "the beginning of a transition of mission, beginning in December."

It was Gates' first Pentagon press conference since mid-July.

© 2007 The Associated Press