Robert Gates’ Early-to-Mid-Year Departure Up in the Air

Jake Tapper and Martha Raddatz report:

After saying he would leave early to mid year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now sending a more vague messages about his departure date.

From PBS Newshour to air this evening:

JIM LEHRER: Speaking of leaving command, you’re set to leave this year, right?

SEC. GATES: Well, at some point.

MR. LEHRER: What’s on – what is your timetable? There was a report today, to be specific, that you might stay for the whole year. You might stay for another year to the end of 2011. Is that in the cards?

SEC. GATES: Well, we’ll just see.

MR. LEHRER: Okay. (Laughter.) All right. Whatever! Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

SEC. GATES: Thank you.

An administration official explains to ABC News that not only will Gates have the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan beginning in July, the Summer is also when some officials anticipate the implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell to truly set in – making Gates’ departure then quite problematic.

- Jake Tapper and Martha Raddatz

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