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Gates: Iraq stability is slow in coming

Published August 6, 2007


WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Sunday that political stability in Iraq won't likely happen before the Bush administration makes its crucial September assessment on its war strategy's success.

But Gates declined to predict that a draw-down of U.S. military forces in such a scenario would happen by year's end. He cited some progress in reducing violence locally in regions such as Anbar province, a former base of al-Qaida's activities in Iraq.

"There is a possibility," Gates hedged, when asked in broadcast interviews if he considered a troop draw-down this year a "good possibility" or would bet on it.

He said that Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in September would have to weigh some of the local successes against continuing problems in Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's national government.

"We're doing contingency planning on a lot of different possibilities," Gates said.

Gates, a member of the Iraq Study Group before he took his current position, also acknowledged that he probably would have sided with other members of the study group in urging the United States to reduce its military involvement should there be little political gains.

But he said since then, the United States has had unexpected, good progress on the local level in Iraq. "Circumstances have actually changed in a different way," he said. "That's the process we're hoping will evolve over time."

Fast Facts:

Iraq developments

Leader killed: U.S. troops killed the al-Qaida in Iraq mastermind of the bombing that destroyed the golden dome of a famed sacred Shiite shrine last year and set in motion an unrelenting cycle of sectarian bloodletting, military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said Sunday. Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al-Badri was killed while setting up an ambush, Fox said.

Attacks: Rogue Shiite militiamen with Iranian weapons and training launched two-thirds of the attacks that killed or wounded American forces last month in Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. second in command, said Sunday. Overall, attacks against U.S. forces were down sharply last month.

[Last modified August 6, 2007, 01:47:16]

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