Gates said the move would allow the military to sustain the boost in U.S. forces in Iraq that President George W. Bush announced in January.
"This policy is a difficult but necessary interim step that will be kept in place only until we can shift in confidence to the 12-month deployments [followed by] 12 months at home, and ultimately to the rotation goal for army active duty forces, of 12 months deployed and 24 months at home," Gates said.
As part of Bush's plan, the U.S. military is in the midst of deploying nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq in an attempt to make Baghdad and other areas more secure.
There are currently 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 25,000 in Afghanistan.
In related news, Democratic Party leaders have announced they will meet with Bush next week to discuss a disputed funding bill for troops in Iraq.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said in a joint statement that the meeting with Bush will be on April 18.
Bush has threatened to veto the bills passed in the House and Senate that attach a pullout timetable to the funding request: a September 1, 2008, deadline in the House bill and a goal of March 31, 2008, in the Senate legislation.
(AFP, AP, Reuters)
THE COMPLETE STORY:
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