Friday, December 5, 2008

Secretary of Defense to accelerate Iraq pullout

The Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, will accelerate the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.

At least that's the headlines in the news today.

On the one hand, it appears Scty. Gates is towing a company line far outside his party's baseline doctrine. After all, Gates is, for now, the only Republican to stay on with the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama. It appears he is pulling the trigger on the Democratic plan to scale down U.S. troops in Iraq, and to begin closing down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It's interesting to note that during the briefing he conducted today, Gates acknowledged his unique position in the new Democratic administration — a job he said he didn't necessarily want, but added that it was something he couldn't turn down.

On the other hand, where does that leave organizations like the Oregon National Guard, which next year, plans to deploy over 3,000 Soldiers to Iraq--the largest single deployment of Oregon troops since WWII? The honest answer: The Oregon Guard is still committed to the missions the President feels are important to our national security.

For his part, Gates, who oversaw the buildup of forces in Iraq in 2006-2007, made it clear that he is comfortable with Obama's commitment to the military, saying he is less concerned with the 16-month timetable for the drawdown of troops in Iraq. However, Gates has repeatedly insisted that any withdrawl of troops must be based on Iraq's security conditions, and conducted in a responsible manner.

According to Gates, the situation in Iraq has changed. He cited the new security agreement with Iraq, and the country's call for U.S. troops to be out of the cities by the end of June 2009, and a full pullout before Jan. 1, 2012.

"Commanders are already looking at what the implications of that are in terms of the potential for accelerating the drawdown and in terms of how we meet our obligations to the Iraqis," Gates said. "Nobody wants to put at risk the gains that have been achieved with so much sacrifice on the part of our soldiers and the Iraqis at this point."

The important point of Gates' announcement is not his agreement with the Obama administration's timetable. Nor does it have anything to do with political affiliation.

The Defense Secretary's response when asked by reporters if he had changed his political mindset in order to align with the incoming administration, or if he minded working alongside incoming Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a testament to his committment to U.S. troops, and the support of the United States as a patriot.

"You know, the president-elect will be the eighth president I've worked for. And all I can say is I look forward to it," Gates said.

Perhaps the men and women of the Oregon National Guard can look upon Gates' announcement as an example of how we can conduct ourselves. After all, we are committed to supporting the President, and defending the liberties of our state and our nation. Our membership in the greatest organization in the world should be based more on these high ideals, rather than personal or political opinion.

For more on this story, see the AP Newswire story here.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

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