Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he believes a secure and stable Iraq is within reach, although much remains to be done to counter ongoing violence and ensure Iraqi forces are ready to take over more military duties from U.S. troops.

Gates, in a joint news conference with Iraq's defense minister, said that Iraqis who have been fighting al-Qaida and other military forces on the local level must be integrated into the formal Iraqi security forces, for example.

"I believe that a secure, stable Iraq is within reach," Gates said, adding however, "We need to be patient."