Obama to keep Gates as Pentagon chief

Obama to keep Gates as Pentagon chief

Chicago: Seeking experience in wartime, President-elect Barack Obama intends to retain Defence Secretary Robert Gates as head of the Pentagon - if only temporarily - and has chosen a retired Marine general to be White House national security adviser, officials have said.

Gates and retired Gen James Jones would bring decades of experience to the administration of a 47-year-old commander in chief who campaigned on a pledge to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months while simultaneously ramping up the US military presence in Afghanistan.

While Gates has accepted Obama’s appointment, it was not clear that Jones had done the same.

Obama has also offered the post of secretary of state to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, his rival in the Democratic presidential primary campaign. Officials have not yet disclosed whether she has decided to give up her seat in Congress to join the Cabinet.

Whatever Clinton’s decision, aides to the president-elect say he intends to announce members of his national security team next week, after disclosing his top economic advisers in recent days.

Keeping Gates might afford Obama a sort of extended transition, in which critical military issues are left in trusted hands while Obama focuses most intensely on the financial crisis.

Gates, who has served as President George W Bush’s defense secretary for two years, will remain in the Cabinet for some time, probably a year, according to an official familiar with discussions between him and the president-elect. His appointment would fulfill an Obama pledge to include a Republican in his Cabinet.