During a visit to Baghdad Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsed his Iraq commander's proposal for a pause in the U.S. troop drawdown after the last of the surge troops go home in July.  VOA's Al Pessin reports from Baghdad.

Secretary Gates has said several times that he hoped the drawdown of about 3,500 U.S. troops per month could continue after the last of the surge brigades leaves.  But the top U.S. and coalition commander here, General David Petraeus, has said he believes a pause will be needed to assess the security situation before withdrawing additional troops.

On Monday, after a lengthy meeting with General Petraeus in Baghdad, Secretary Gates said he is ready to accept a pause.

" I think that the notion of a brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does make sense," Gates said.

Secretary Gates said he had begun thinking along the same lines himself, but he is not sure how long such a pause would last.

"One of the keys is how long is that period, and then what happens after that, and all of that is still to be determined and then ultimately decided by the president," Gates said.

Most of the surge forces President Bush ordered to Iraq will leave by July, and U.S. officials need to decide what to do after that.

Secretary Gates says General Petraeus' recommendation will be presented to the president next month, along with assessments by other senior officers and the secretary himself.  General Petraeus is to report to congress in early April.