AAM: "A move in the right direction."
Michael is back on the Baghdad rooftop, discussing P-E Obama's decision to keep Robert Gates on as SecDef.
JOE JOHNS: As we just mentioned, President-elect Obama wants the man President Bush installed at the Pentagon, Robert Gates, to stay there when he takes office next month. CNN's Michael Ware is live in Baghdad for us.
Michael, what does the Gates' reappointment mean?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, what this primarily is, is a reassuring and savvy act of ongoing stewardship at a time where America is waging two wars. Now, if, indeed, it's confirmed as we expect that President-elect Obama will continue in office Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Gates himself is a politically nonaligned individual who's seen as something of a moderate. Now in many ways, Secretary Gates' presence has been important in rehabilitating the relationship between those in uniform in Washington and the civilians who command them. A relationship that's been so badly damaged under the current administration.
Also, as a former director of Central Intelligence, Secretary Gates is a good bridge between the intelligence community and the Pentagon, and finally, of course, as one of the stewards of the so-called surge strategy here in Iraq that's been considered so successful, Secretary Gates could also be a tempering influence on the pace of an Obama administration's withdrawal from Iraq -- Joe.
JOHNS: So Michael, given the points you've made here, should Obama have gone with a fresh face or is Gates moving in the right direction?
WARE: I think it's a move in the right direction. Certainly you couldn't have reappointed a Donald Rumsfeld, for example, but Secretary Gates is by no means, by no stretch of the imagination, a Secretary Rumsfeld. Secretary Gates is a pro. I mean a careerist in the CIA, he rose to the level of Director of the CIA, and with the military, certainly here on the ground that I've seen in Baghdad, he's much more consultative. I mean, we're not seeing a civilian political agenda, jammed down the throats of military commanders who are preparing or are actually waging war. And we saw that under Secretary Rumsfeld.
So it's a much better atmosphere within the military community in D.C. and here on the front lines. So I think that bodes well, particularly with President-elect Obama moving into office with his promise to reduce the number of U.S. troops here and bring them home, in a timetable that does not consider what's happening here on the ground. So America needs to protect its interests here in Iraq and Secretary Gates may be a good form of continuity to make sure that that protection is in place -- Joe.
JOHNS: So speaking of on the ground, Gates gets pretty good marks there, I take it, among the military leaders?
WARE: Yes, he does. I mean as I said, he's not seen as forcing issues upon the military commanders. He's not telling them how many troops they must have. He's much more consultative and listening to what they're saying about what they need and what's the situation that confronts them here in this war that's still going on, even though it mightn't be in the headlines back home. We saw that 297 Iraqis died here last month and, indeed, at least 35 have died just today alone.
So this war is still going, and we know that from some reports that indeed, Secretary Gates, unlike other secretaries, attends the weekly meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I mean, in one way, it's a small thing, in another way it's a very big thing. And given that we have such a progressive administration coming in, having someone from the past to provide continuity could be a very good play especially to commanders -- Joe.
JOHNS: Michael Ware, thanks for that. Good talking to you.