Gates commitment under Obama "open ended"
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday there is no timeframe in his commitment to stay on as Pentagon chief under president-elect Barack Obama, dpa reported.
"The president-elect and I agreed that this would be open," Gates told reporters. "There is no timeframe."
Gates, 65, said he will not serve as a "caretaker secretary" and intends to remain focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reforming the Defence Department.
Obama announced Monday that Gates, who took over the job in December 2006, has agreed to stay in the post in an effort to maintain continuity as the country fights two conflicts abroad.
Under President George W Bush, Gates opposed setting deadlines for withdrawing US forces from Iraq, while Obama campaigned on a plan to remove all combat troops within 16 months of taking office.
Gates, however, said he was now comfortable with Obama's position because of improvement in the security environment in Iraq and in the wake of the agreement reached with Baghdad calling for the withdrawal of all US soldiers by 2011.
The Iraqi parliament approved the deal, known as a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), on Thursday, and only weeks ahead of the expiration of a UN mandate that serves as the legal basis for the US presence. The agreement also calls on US troops to pull out of populated areas in Iraq by the end of June 2009.
Gates pointed out that Obama is committed to hearing the advice of military commanders and will have a "responsible drawdown" of troops.
"That's exactly the position a president-elect should be in," Gates said.
Gates also identified closing Guantanamo under the Obama administration as a priority but said congressional legislation will be needed to move forward.