Panetta Backs Afghan Drawdown, But Doesn't Offer Details

CIA chief is widely expect to be easily confirmed for defense secretary post

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In the Senate confirmation hearing, Defense Secretary nominee Leon Panetta said he supports pulling troops out of Afghanistan this summer, but wouldn't say how many or how fast. Panetta said withdrawals should be "significant," The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reports--but wouldn't say whether that assessment conflicted with current Defense Secretary Robert Gates' call that they be "modest." He also noted that "Our all-volunteer force has been stretched by combat that has lasted nearly a decade." Panetta's hearing is expected to go smoothly, with The Washignton Times' Eli Lake tweeting that he "could show up at Senate hearing today in a Hawaiian shirt, smoking a jay, quoting Tupac lyrics & he would still be confirmed."

Panetta is the current head of the CIA, and oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden, which Pakistan was not alerted was happening until it was over. Some lawmakers called for a reexamination of aid to Pakistan, since the terrorist was living for years near the capital, but Panetta said the American relationship with the country is "one of the most critical, and at the same time one of the most complicated and frustrating relationships we have." He said he was worried about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, because of "the danger that those nukes could wind up in the wrong hands."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.