Published: May 25, 2010 4:13 PM EDT
Updated: May 25, 2010 1:13 PM EDT

 WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is reluctantly supporting a White House-backed proposal in Congress that would immediately repeal the law banning gays from serving openly in the military.

Gates will back the measure because Congress has left it up to him when to implement the changes. The proposal was considered a compromise with some Democrats, who want an immediate repeal of the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" law.

Gates had asked Congress to hold off until after Dec. 1, so he could have time to study the issue. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters on Tuesday that Gates would still have preferred that Congress hold off for now. But he said that "with Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment."

More US troops in Afghanistan than Iraq, a first

For the first time since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, there are more U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan than in Iraq. The Pentagon says that as of Saturday, 94,000 U.S. forces were in Afghanistan and 92,000 in Iraq. The figure for Afghanistan will rise to roughly 98,000 later this summer with the Obama administration's commitment of additional forces.

The level of U.S. forces in Iraq have fallen from a high of more than 160,000 in 2007, when they were in heavy combat there.

All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by September. In his presidential campaign Barack Obama called for a quick end to the war in Iraq and expansion of the Afghan conflict. Since taking office he has sent more than 40,000 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan.