Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement on media reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be urging the redeployment of significant numbers of troops from Iraq by the end of President Bush’s term:

"After four years in Iraq, it is encouraging to see today’s Wall Street Journal article which suggests that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is calling for the redeployment of large numbers of troops from Iraq and a shift to a more limited set of missions. If the report is accurate, I commend the Secretary for advocating a policy that would at last lead to redeployment.

"However, redeployment must be achieved more quickly than by the end of the administration. America has enduring national security interests in the Near East region, but only the Iraqis can solve the problem of Iraqi sectarian violence. Furthermore, the American military is under enormous strain, and it will take years to bring our forces and their equipment back to full readiness once they come off the battlefield. Right now, our military readiness levels assume an amount of strategic risk that is unacceptable.

"It is time to focus on a restored military able to preserve America’s national interests, while we shift the mission in Iraq to counter-terrorism, training, and regional stability. Congress will keep fighting for this outcome. I look forward to working with fellow Members of Congress, Secretary Gates, and others to achieve a responsible redeployment to these more limited missions as quickly as possible."