News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqUS defense chief meets commanders over Iraq strategy

US defense chief meets commanders over Iraq strategy

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AFP: Defense Secretary Robert Gates held talks with top US military commanders this week over their plans for future troop deployments in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday. WASHINGTON (AFP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates held talks with top US military commanders this week over their plans for future troop deployments in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday.

Gates met earlier with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, after talks with the top general in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the US commander in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, on Thursday.

It was an “opportunity for the secretary to hear the very latest thinking of the senior military leaders” before they brief President George W. Bush on Wednesday, Morrell told reporters.

Petraeus and the US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker will present their latest evaluation of the situation in Iraq to Congress on April 8 and 9, which will be crucial in determining the future US military strategy there.

Petraeus, Fallon and Gates are all in favor of a “pause” in the drawdown of US troops from the country, after a first reduction from the current 157,000 troops to 140,000 by July, Morrell noted.

“A pause is worthwhile to figure out the impact of the withdrawal,” the spokesman said, adding only that this pause would last “some duration.”

Morrell added that despite requests from members of Congress, Fallon would not be appearing with the other military chiefs next month.

The admiral recently announced he was stepping down, blaming press reports suggesting he disagreed with the administration on Iran, something he denied. Morrell said he would formally step down at the end of March.

“I can tell you Admiral Fallon will not be testifying,” he said.

Similar briefings were carried out before Petraeus’ last appearance before Congress, in September.

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