Gates Says Iraq Meeting Was Start Of Process

WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Wednesday's high-level meeting at the White House on how to proceed in Iraq was just the start of an evaluation process of the "various options."

He says there was a "good give and take" at the meeting, which involved President Obama and top military and diplomatic officials.

Obama had vowed during the campaign to get combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, says there needs to be a "responsible drawdown" of U.S. forces in Iraq. And he says there will be a deliberate but rapid process to reach the decisions on withdrawing U.S. forces.

In a statement after the meeting, Obama also called for a responsible drawdown, and said he's asked military leaders to engage in any planning necessary to bring that about.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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