Pentagon chief cites caution on US troop pullout

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates says a go-slow approach to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq is justified by several worrisome circumstances, including slow progress on the political front.

In remarks prepared for testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gates also says sectarian tensions still exist and have the potential to undo recent security progress.

The Pentagon chief was testifying one day after President Bush announced that he has approved a plan to withdraw about 8,000 U.S. troops by February. Some troops will leave this fall, but the number of combat brigades in Iraq will remain at the current 15 until late January or early February.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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