Published: Aug 16, 2010 11:58 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 16, 2010 6:30 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to leave his job next year.

A Republican and holdover from the Bush administration, Gates had agreed to stay on at the request of President Barack Obama. The move was intended to maintain stability at a time of two wars, although Gates has been open about his desire to return to civilian life in his home state of Washington.

In an interview published Monday, Gates told Foreign Policy magazine that leaving in 2011 makes sense. It would give him time to oversee the major offensive under way in Afghanistan but bow out before the 2012 presidential elections.

Gates has been defense secretary since December 2006.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed Monday that Gates has set his sights on leaving next year.

Morrell said that "2011 makes sense to him" because it would give Gates time to oversee the major offensive under way in Afghanistan but bow out before the 2012 presidential election season.

White House spokesman Bill Burton, traveling with Obama, said that Gates had served with distinction, and he declined to comment on Gates' future or who might succeed him.

Among those named by Foreign Policy and others as Gates' potential successor are Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy; John Hamre, chairman of the Defense Policy Board and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank; and Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat.