Defense Sec. Robert Gates, in a letter to Sen. Hillary Clinton, said that senior military commanders are drawing up contingency plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, calling the work a "priority" for the Department of Defense.
Gates said he won't share specifics with Congress but is willing to loop Congress in on the "conceptual thinking, factors, considerations and objectives associated with drawdown planning."
Responding to Clinton's complaint that Under Secretary for Policy Eric Edelman denigrated the value of congressional oversight, Gates called it "fundamental" to the American political system, said the congressional debate on Iraq is "constructive, appropriate and necessary," and is explicit in saying that he does not believe that the debate about oversight "does not embolden our enemies."
Gates ends the letter by expressing his support for Amb. Edelman. Then he apologizes. "I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and I also regret any misunderstanding of intentions," Gates writes.
A Clinton aide responds:
While Senator Clinton is disappointed that Secretary Gates does not repudiate Under Secretary Edelman’s unacceptable political attack, Senator Clinton nevertheless welcomes Secretary Gates's acknowledgment that congressional oversight of the war in Iraq is essential to our national debate. She continues to believe strongly that there is absolutely no room for impugning the patriotism of those who rightfully engage in Congressional oversight
Senator Clinton also welcomes the disclosure that the Department of Defense, according to the Secretary, is indeed planning for the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq, and looks forward to receiving the department's briefings. To ensure that Secretary Gates’ sentiments are fulfilled, she will continue to pursue with Senator Kerry their legislation mandating that the Pentagon brief Congress on contingency planning to ensure the safe and secure redeployment of our troops from Iraq.