Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he thinks it would be a good idea to keep a small number of U.S. forces in Iraq past a deadline agreed to by the U.S. and Iraq.
President Barack Obama said Friday he intends to bring all troops home from Iraq by the end of 2011. That's after most combat and other forces would come home under the exit plan Obama announced.
Gates, who had the same job under former President George W. Bush, says the deadline is still in force and will hold unless Iraq asks the U.S. to stay on. Gates says for his part he would like to see what he called a modest U.S. presence to train Iraqi forces, help with new equipment and perhaps perform intelligence operations.
Gates says he is pleased with the withdrawal strategy Obama announced, which brings combat forces home in 18 months. He says setting an exit date is important, in part because the new president said he would do so.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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