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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora