News / USA

US Senate Panel Questions Defense Nominee on Troop Withdrawals, Budget Cuts

Defense Secretary nominee, CIA Director Leon Panetta, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on his nomination, June 9, 2011
Defense Secretary nominee, CIA Director Leon Panetta, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on his nomination, June 9, 2011
Cindy Saine

The Senate Armed Services Committee has held a hearing on President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta. Panetta, the current Central Intelligence Agency Director, was warmly received by the panel, but faced a number of tough questions on his ideas about the size and pace of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and plans by the president to cut the nation's defense budget.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the Senate panel quickly made clear in their remarks that Leon Panetta's confirmation to be the next Secretary of Defense by the full Senate is virtually certain. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised Panetta and then hit him with rapid fire questions on a number of challenges he will face.

"I just think the president has put together an A-plus national security team, and you are one of the lynchpins of that," said Graham. "So now some hard questions. [Both Graham and Panetta laugh]



Several senators gave Panetta credit for being the person President Obama put in charge of the operation to capture or kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Panetta said he believed the killing of bin Laden in May gave the United States the best chance it has had since September 11, 2001 to defeat the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Troop levels in Afghanistan was a major focus of the hearing. President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan this July, with a goal of ending U.S. military operations in the country by the end of 2014. Democratic Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin has called on the president to withdraw 15,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Levin quoted the president as saying it is time for Afghans to start taking responsibility for their own future.

"The president has also said that the reductions starting in July will be quote significant, and not just a quote token gesture," said Levin. "I support that decision."

But there were also several senators on the panel worried that the progress achieved during ten years of U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan could be jeopardized by a hasty pull-out. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona:

"I would agree with Secretary Gates that any drawdown should be modest so as to maximize our ability to lock in the hard-won gains of our troops through the next fighting season," said McCain. 

Panetta refused to be pinned down on whether the reductions of U.S. troops from Afghanistan should be "modest" or "significant", saying only he agrees with the president that they should be "conditions-based."

Several senators expressed concern that any progress in Afghanistan is threatened by the terrorist safe havens in Pakistan, which enable terrorists to constantly cross over the border to attack U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Panetta said he shares these concerns, and the Obama administration has conveyed them to the Pakistani government.

"We need to have their cooperation, we need to have their partnership in confronting what frankly is a common enemy here," said Panetta. "You know terrorism just isn't our problem, it is their problem."

Asked about progress in Libya, Panetta said there are signs that military and economic pressure are showing “some signs” of working and that he expects they could force Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down if the United States and its NATO allies keep up the pressure on him.

If confirmed by the Senate, Panetta would take over the Pentagon at a time when the U.S. is involved in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and President Obama has called for an additional $400 billion in cuts to defense spending. Some senators said they do not want military decisions to be dictated by budgetary constraints. Panetta assured the panel that his first and foremost mission will always be to protect the United States.

"I do not believe based on my long experience in government and working with budgets that we have to choose between strong fiscal discipline and strong national defense," he said.

Panetta vowed to eliminate wasteful spending by the Pentagon, and said the country owes it to U.S. service members and their families to give them the best possible benefits and health care.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid