WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he hasn’t discussed with the top military commander in Iraq any plan for an “operational pause” before moving forward with troop reductions in Iraq beyond July.
Gates said during a joint news conference Thursday with French Defense Minister Herve Morin that he and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus haven’t talked about a plan that would freeze the drawdown temporarily beginning this summer, when the initial 15 brigades that were part of the troop surge in Iraq will have returned home without replacement.
Petraeus told CNN during an interview Jan. 27 that he favored having "some time to let things settle a bit" after withdrawing what will be more than one-quarter of the combat power the United States had in Iraq at the height of the surge. "We think it would be prudent to do some period of assessment" before decisions about additional drawdowns are made, he said.
Petraeus is expected to issue his recommendation for troop numbers in Iraq in late March or early April. “The guidance I have provided to him is, he should make his evaluation and recommendations based solely on the conditions on the ground in Iraq,” Gates said.
Gates said Petraeus’ recommendation will be among those from several sources -- including U.S. Central Command chief Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretary himself -- to be presented to Bush.
“And the president will have the benefit of all of that come March and
April in terms of making a decision,” Gates said.