Gates-Pentagon Pentagon sources confirm that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will remain in charge of the Pentagon for at least another year. Secretary Gates, a Republican appointee of President George W. Bush, stayed in his position during the transition to the Obama administration, and he will now continue his tenure as the war in Afghanistan continues. Melissa Block talks with NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.

Gates-Pentagon

Gates-Pentagon

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Pentagon sources confirm that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will remain in charge of the Pentagon for at least another year. Secretary Gates, a Republican appointee of President George W. Bush, stayed in his position during the transition to the Obama administration, and he will now continue his tenure as the war in Afghanistan continues. Melissa Block talks with NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Joining me now is NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Tom, what have you learned tonight about how Secretary Gates' tenure will continue?

TOM BOWMAN: Well, a Pentagon source tells me that Gates told his staff several weeks ago that he would be staying on at least until January 2011. And he said he told the president just prior to the staff meeting that he would be staying on.

BLOCK: And did he give reasons for wanting to stay on in this role?

BOWMAN: And the other thing he's talked about a lot with his staff is he wants to make sure that the returning soldiers and Marines and other service members from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated well, that they have the right medical care if they need it, especially those, of course, who are wounded.

BLOCK: How would you describe the relationships between Secretary Gates and President Obama?

BOWMAN: Gates, of course, is a Republican, served under George W. Bush, was very close to George H.W. Bush, was CIA director, of course. And this really affirmed up a relationship with this new Democratic president. And, of course, the other thing was the war in Afghanistan, it was Gates who was key in making sure that General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander there, got enough troops that he needed in Afghanistan. And Gates really brokered that 30,000 troop figure that they eventually decided on.

BLOCK: And given that escalation of troops into Afghanistan, what does having Secretary Gates stay on as head of the Pentagon mean for the ongoing U.S. effort there? What are his goals?

BOWMAN: So, Gates is on board with their strategy for the war in Afghanistan, making the people of Afghanistan, as a counterinsurgency, making sure that they are secure, that they are the prize here - making sure that they are safe and secure. So you would look to see him supporting General McChrystal, I think, in the coming year at least. And then making sure that, you know, eventually troops can start pulling out. And, also, he's keen on making sure that the Afghanistan forces are trained well enough so they can start taking over the security job from the United States forces. And that would, of course, allow more U.S. troops to come out.

BLOCK: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman with the news tonight that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will stay on at the Pentagon for at least another year. Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Melissa.

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