While the Bush administration has repeatedly referred to the Democrats’ timetable for withdrawal from Iraq as a recipe for failure, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has praised the measure. He’s also urged an assessment of the troop escalation by this summer—sooner than supporters of the “surge” would like—and indicated support for a withdrawal as outlined by the Iraq Study Group, which he was once a part of.
The administration traditionally values loyalty over competence and other considerations, but it appears as though the defense secretary is flexing his independence.
Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON—President Bush has mobilized his administration, including his top general in Iraq, in a major push to win more time and money for his war strategy. But one crucial voice has been missing from the chorus: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
In fact, Gates’ recent comments seem to run counter to the message from the White House. During a recent trip to the Middle East, Gates told the Iraqi government that time was running out and praised Democratic efforts in the U.S. Congress to set a timetable for withdrawal, saying it would help prod the Iraqis. He reiterated that point during a meeting with reporters last week.
A spokesman for Gates insisted there was no distance between the Defense secretary’s thinking on the timetable for Iraq and views held by the White House or Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq.
But his warnings to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki are just the latest indications from Gates that he believes the window of opportunity for the administration to get Iraq right is closing sooner rather than later.