By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he hopes to be able to continue to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq over the next 10 months, even as he and his military commanders lean toward a pause in troop cuts in July.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, from left, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Stephen Smith MP, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Australian Minister for Defense, Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, speak to reporters after a bi-lateral meeting at the Parliament House Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008, in Canberra, Australia. Australian leaders and their U.S.counterparts gathered in Canberra for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government’s first top level talks on security and strategic issues.
(AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool)
Gates, who is traveling to Australia for defense and diplomatic meetings, told reporters traveling with him that he thinks a “brief pause” to evaluate the security situation in Iraq “is probably necessary in order to be able to assess the pacing of any subsequent drawdowns.”
While Gates still would not say how long a brief interruption in troop cuts might be, his comments signaled that reductions could begin again before the end of the year.
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