US defense chief Gates retiring

Updated: 2010-08-17 14:01
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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed on Monday plans to leave office next year, saying he first wanted to make sure the start of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan is on track.

"I think that by next year I'll be in a position where - you know, we're going to know whether the strategy is working in Afghanistan," Gates said in an interview with the American magazine Foreign Policy.

"We'll have completed the surge. We'll have done the assessment in December. And it seems like somewhere there in 2011 is a logical opportunity to hand off."

Gates said it would be wrong for him to wait until January 2012 to try and hand over the reins as it could be tricky to "get a good candidate" in an election year when the administration might be voted out.

Gates himself was first appointed defense secretary by former president George W. Bush and as a senior Republican figure has provided valuable political cover in President Barack Obama's Democratic administration.

The confirmation of his planned departure comes at a critical time for the Afghanistan war effort with a surge of 30,000 more US troops due to swell American numbers to 100,000 in the coming weeks.

Afghanistan is trying to build up its army and police so that they can take responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces by the end of 2014.

Obama announced his new Afghan strategy late last year and said he would start pulling American troops home in July 2011. Gates told Foreign Policy he believed Obama's surge meant things were on track for the withdrawal deadline, which he agreed with.

"The July 2011 deadline was a hard hurdle for me to get over because I'd fought against deadlines with respect to Iraq consistently," he said.

"But I became persuaded that something like that was needed to get the attention of the Afghan government, that they had to take ownership of this thing ... and I recognized the risks."


1. When will Gates leave office?

2. When do they plan to start pulling troops home?

3. Which president first appointed Gates the defense secretary?


1. 2011.

2. July 2011.

3. George W Bush.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

US defense chief Gates retiring

About the broadcaster:

US defense chief Gates retiring

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.