WASHINGTON (AFP) - US commanders are considering an accelerated drawdown of US forces from Iraq, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday, softening his opposition to president-elect Barack Obama's 16-month timetable. On Guantanamo, Gates reiterated that it would be possible to close the US war on terror detention centre there but it would require new legislation by Congress. "I am less concerned about that timetable," he told a news conference at the Pentagon a day after Obama announced Gates had agreed to stay on as defence secretary in a Democratic administration. Gates said US commanders were already "looking at what the implications of that are in terms of the potential for accelerating the drawdown and - and in terms of how we meet our obligations to the Iraqis." How Gates would handle his differences with Obama over the pace of the drawdown has been a key question ever since advisers to the president-elect suggested he might be asked to work in an Obama administration. He acknowledged that being the first Defence Secretary ever to be kept on by a newly-elected President, much less one from another party, makes his a "unique situation." "I think the President-elect has made it pretty clear that he wanted a team of people around him who would tell him what they thought and give him their best advice. I think he has assembled that team," he said. "There will, no doubt, be differences among the team. And it will be up to the president to make the decisions," he said. Gates made clear that he intends to be a full participant, not just a wartime placeholder while Obama and his administration get settled. "I have no intention of being a caretaker secretary," he said. He said he and Obama agreed his tenure would be open ended. Gates has insisted in recent months that he could not conceive of conditions under which he would stay on. But he met discreetly with Obama for the first time on November 11 in Washington after the President-elect had visited President George W. Bush at the White House. "We actually met in the fire station at National Airport and they pulled the trucks out so that our cars could go in," Gates said. "I spent a long time hoping the question would never be popped," he said. "I then hoped he'd change his mind. And yesterday it became a reality." All other political appointees at the Defence Department are subject to replacement by the new administration, he said. Gordon England, the Deputy Defence Secretary announced he would be leaving. Gates wrapped his position on Iraq in some ambiguity. He said that while Obama had repeated his desire to get US combat troops out by the end of 2011, "he also said that he wanted to have a responsible drawdown." "And he also said that he was prepared to listen to his commanders," he said. "And it's within that framework that I think it is agreeable," he added. Gates emphasized that a timetable calling for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 already had been set under a status of forces agreement reached with Baghdad. "It's a longer one, but it's a definite timetable. So that bridge has been crossed," he said. "And so the question is how do we do this in a responsible way. And nobody wants to put at risk the gains that have been achieved with so much sacrifice on the part of our soldiers and the Iraqis at this point," he said. Gates concurred with Obama's view that South Asia is the region that now poses the greatest threat of attack to the United States, observing that "we basically have our foot on the neck of Al-Qaeda in Iraq."