What's Obama going to tell Gates about Iraq?

The president-elect gives conflicting signals about what the military's mission will be once he takes over.

Published December 1, 2008 5:30PM (EST)

President-elect Barack Obama said some interesting things about Iraq during his press conference on Monday.

First, when discussing his decision to have Robert Gates stay on as secretary of Defense, Obama said, "I will be giving Secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office: responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control. We will also ensure that we have the strategy -- and resources -- to succeed against al Qaeda and the Taliban. As Bob said not too long ago, Afghanistan is where the war on terror began, and it is where it must end."

Responding to questions from the press later on, however, Obama seemed to walk that back a little bit. "We are now on a glide path to reduc[ing] our forces in Iraq," he said. The president-elect also said he thinks his 16-month time frame for withdrawal is still the right way to proceed, though he'll listen to military commanders' advice about that.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Iraq War Robert Gates War Room