In a conference call with reporters immediately after President Obama’s Iraq-withdrawal speech, Defense Secretary Bob Gates said that the withdrawal plan has the support of key military leaders.
"I’m obviously very supportive of the decision the president has made, as is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Gates said. He conceded that he shared the "real concern[s]" of Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, that the 16-month option for withdrawing U.S. combat brigades proposed by Obama on the campaign trail would be insufficiently flexible for responding to potential flare-ups in violence during and following the two rounds of elections Iraq will hold during 2009. But the 19-month option is now a consensus position, Gates said: "I think General Odierno and Gen. Petraeus are comfortable with the option the president decided upon."
There have been reports that Odierno and Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, had been uncomfortable with withdrawal. Whether or not those reports were accurate, Gates publicly committed both generals to supporting the withdrawal plan.
Crossposted to The Streak.