In a stinging rebuke to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded to questions Clinton raised in May in which she urged the Pentagon to start planning now for the withdrawal of American forces.
Clinton has privately and publicly pushed Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace two months ago to begin drafting the plans for what she said will be a complicated withdrawal of troops, trucks and equipment.
"If we're not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way," she said then.
The Pentagon told Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton that her questions about how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda.
"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," Edelman wrote.
He added that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."