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Posts tagged ‘Hagel’

Hagel Backs NATO Force in Afghanistan Post-2014.


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told American troops on Sunday that he backed a NATO force playing a role in Afghanistan after 2014, as Washington and President Hamid Karzai wrangle over a stalled security pact.

Hagel travelled to the southern province of Helmand to meet troops a day after further tensions over the security pact that would allow NATO forces to stay in the country after next year.

“I believe there is a role for our coalition partners and the United States, but that depends on the Afghan people,” Hagel told US soldiers in a question-and-answer session.

“If the people of Afghanistan want to continue that relationship, then we will.”

US commanders were looking at “a new phase for our mission to train, assist, advise and counter-terrorism,” he said.

Meetings with Karzai have been customary over the years for Pentagon chiefs, but Hagel said Saturday after his arrival that he had no plans to meet the Afghan president during his weekend visit.

As President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser, Susan Rice, and top diplomat, John Kerry, had already had frank discussions with Karzai urging him to sign the security agreement, Hagel said there was no point in him repeating the US position.

“There’s not much I can add in a meeting with President Karzai to what’s already been said,” he said on Saturday.

Hagel did meet the Afghan defence minister, who assured him the security agreement would be signed in “a timely manner”.

Karzai, who visited Iran on Sunday, initially endorsed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), but has since refused to sign and issued fresh demands.

The agreement sets the legal conditions to permit US and other forces to operate in the country beyond 2014.

But without a signed deal, countries ready to send troops to a post-2014 training mission cannot make budget plans or secure political approval, Hagel said.

Karzai has said the signature could take place after elections in April, but Hagel said that would push the timeline into mid-2014 as the polls are expected to result in a run-off vote.

Eventually there will be “a cut-off point” to cancel a post-2014 mission, he said Saturday, adding that he was “not prepared to give a date on that”.

He said a meeting of NATO defence ministers in February would be crucial for military planners and governments “and some answers are going to be required at that NATO ministerial”.

There are currently 46,000 American troops and 27,000 soldiers from other coalition countries in Afghanistan, and almost the entire NATO-led force is scheduled to pull out by the end of next year.

With the long war in Afghanistan often overlooked in the US and Europe, he told the group of Marines and US Army troops on Sunday that they were not forgotten.

“I know more than occasionally you wonder if anybody is paying attention, whether anybody cares,” he said. “But we do. Our country cares, we do know what you’re doing.

“And we appreciate it, very much.”

Under a proposed post-2014 mission, roughly 12,000 troops — mostly American — would remain in the country to train Afghans and counter Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In 2011, the US withdrew from Iraq when it failed to secure a similar troop status accord.

 

© AFP 2013
Source: Newsmax.com

Hagel Outlines New Weapons Sale Plan for Gulf.


U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opened the door for the U.S. to sell missile defense and other weapons systems to U.S.-friendly Gulf nations, with an eye toward boosting their abilities to counter Iran’s ballistic missiles, even as global powers ink a nuclear deal with Tehran.

In a speech to Gulf leaders in Manama, Bahrain, on Saturday, Hagel made it clear that the emerging global agreement that would limit Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t mean the security threat from Iran is over.

Instead, he laid out steps to beef up defense cooperation in the Gulf region, while at the same time insisting that America’s military commitment to the Middle East will continue.

“I am under no illusions, like all of you, about the daily threats facing this region, or the current anxieties that I know exist here in the Gulf,” Hagel told a security conference. “These anxieties have emerged as the United States pursues diplomatic openings on some of the region’s most difficult problems and most complex issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and the conflict in Syria.”

He said the interim deal is just a first step that has bought time for meaningful negotiations, adding that “all of us are clear-eyed, very clear-eyed about the challenges that remain” to reaching a nuclear solution with Iran.

And he pointed to the ongoing plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons as diplomacy made possible by America’s military threat. He said President Barack Obama’s threat to strike Syria after a chemical weapons attack believed to be the work of Bashar Assad’s government led to the ultimate deal to remove and destroy the arsenal.

But Hagel argued that the emphasis on diplomacy must not be misinterpreted.

“We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum,” Hagel said. “Our success will continue to hinge on America’s military power, and the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East that we will use it.”

And, he warned that with America’s sophisticated weapons, “no target is beyond our reach.”

As part of the security effort, he said the U.S. wants to take steps to beef up the Gulf region’s ability to defense itself.

Washington has pushed for more than 20 years, particularly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, for better defenses among a group of Gulf nations that includes long-time allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The latter hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Progress has been limited, in part because of their reluctance to collaborate.

Hagel’s speech continued a theme he has repeated over the past two days in private meetings with Gulf leaders and in remarks to troops aboard the Navy’s USS Ponce warship at the nearby U.S. base. He is countering apprehension in the region that the Iran nuclear deal, coupled with U.S. budget pressures and the drawdown in Afghanistan, could signal a decline in America’s commitment to the region.

The interim Iran agreement carved out less than two weeks ago by major nations, including the U.S., would freeze parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for some relief from crippling Western economic sanctions. The deal may open the door to warmer relations with the West, but it has escalated tensions in the Gulf region, where leaders worry that it could embolden Iran and destabilize the area.

Hagel was speaking at an annual international security forum known as the Manama Dialogue, just across the water from Iran. His broader message was that while Iran’s nuclear program is a critical worry, its other conventional missile threats, terrorism links and occasional provocative maritime behavior also greatly concern the U.S. and the region. And those threats are not addressed by the nuclear agreement.

Hagel was challenged at one point during a question-and-answer session by a former Iranian nuclear negotiator over why his address failed to mention Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons. Hossein Mousavian, who is now a scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, told Hagel he “didn’t mention a single word about the major threat of nuclear bombs in the region, which is Israel.”

Hagel replied by noting that Iran is in violation of “many United Nations resolutions.”

Israel is widely understood to possess nuclear weapons but declines to confirm it.

Hagel spent a chunk of the speech detailing the strength of the U.S. military in the area, including more than 35,000 air, land and sea forces in and immediately around the Gulf. They include about 10,000 Army troops, advanced jet fighters, more than 40 ships, sophisticated surveillance and intelligence systems, and a broad missile defense umbrella made up of ships, Patriot missile batteries and radars.

The most concrete proposal Hagel outlined is the Pentagon’s plan to allow military sales to the Gulf Cooperation Council, so the six-member nations can have more coordinated radars, sensors and early warning missile defense systems. While the U.S. can sell to the individual nations, Hagel is arguing that selling the systems to the GCC will ensure that the countries will be able to communicate and coordinate better.

It is unclear, however, how effective that plan will be considering it can be difficult for the six sometimes-combative nations of the GCC — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — to reach agreements.

Hagel also said he wants the Gulf nations to participate in an annual defense ministers’ conference, and would like the first meeting to happen in the next six months.

Hagel is expected to visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia to meet with leaders in the coming days.

___

Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Pentagon Will Cut $1 Billion in Personnel.


Image: Pentagon Will Cut $1 Billion in Personnel

By Elliot Jager

The Pentagon will cut $1 billion in personnel costs over five years, a plan that would affect contractor and civilian defense workers, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

The number of personnel and support staff reductions are comparatively small overall, Hagel said, but “every dollar that we save by reducing the size of our headquarters and back-office operations is a dollar that can be invested in war-fighting capabilities and readiness,” The New York Times reported.

At the same time, he urged Congress not to impose another year of across-the-board sequestration cuts to the defense budget, The Associated Press reported.

“Congress must be a full partner in our efforts to responsibly bring down defense spending and to implement needed institutional reforms that maximize the use of our resources,” Hagel said.

If Congress and the president fail to reach agreement on a tax-and-spending plan by Jan. 15 the Defense Department could face another $500 billion reduction over 10 years above the $487 billion planned for the next decade, the Times noted.

The cuts to various units that report to Hagel’s office over the fiscal years 2015-2019 would come from eliminating entire operations and their support staffs, using fewer outside contractors, leaving vacant positions unfilled, and significantly reducing the use of civilian personnel.

Hagel plans to do away with several under-deputy and deputy-assistant secretary positions within his office as well as consolidate management, intelligence, policy, and technical units, The Times reported. Those units, which now employ more than 2,400 people, would be reduced to fewer than 2,200.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

New Defense Cuts May Force Hagel’s Hand.


Image: New Defense Cuts May Force Hagel's Hand

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has kept a somewhat low-key profile at the Pentagon since his appointment nine months ago, is facing what some sources close to him say could be his biggest challenge as he prepares to confront a new round of defense cuts, according to a report in Politico Magazine.

Hagel, who some administration officials call a “paper tiger,” showed some signs of fighting back at sequestration cuts when he reinstated five of 11 furlough days for Pentagon civilian employees without getting White House approval. The former Republican senator from Nebraska gave only a one-hour notice before he went public with his decision in that instance.

But whether the White House will allow him that kind of leeway again is still an open question, according to administration officials who told Politico that Hagel’s approach to dealing with the sequester’s impact on the military is different from the way the president wants to handle it.

With a new round of defense cuts that could take more than $100 billion a year from the Pentagon coming up, Hagel and his commanders will need to choose between retaining troops and their benefits programs or paring back on modern weapons systems.

The fight may determine the military’s future as the nation winds down its war presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hagel shares Obama‘s goal of a more efficient, if leaner, military, reports Politico, but he is pushing to separate Pentagon spending entirely from the rest of the non-defense budget, putting him at odds with the White House, which is trying to put pressure on Republicans to spare social programs at the same time they move to restore some defense cuts.

“If you just to start to carve out certain popular items from the sequester you don’t solve the problem,” a source close to Obama told Politico. “Chuck is just doing his job. He wants to exempt the military from the sequester, and that’s understandable. But we’re looking to get rid of the sequester across the board.”

Politico also notes that Hagel is facing a set of challenges within the Pentagon itself, including finding a replacement for top deputy secretary Ashton Carter who is leaving the Pentagon at the end of the year. Hagel is reportedly still interviewing people for the job, but Politico reports that Robert Work, a former undersecretary of the Navy, is considered the top candidate.

“To some extent you are seeing the Clinton effect,” an unnamed former defense official told Politico, explaining why filling important positions at the Pentagon may be difficult. “Why take the risks of working in a second Obama administration, when you can make $300,000 in the private sector and then go work for Hillary?”

Still, dealing with the budget cuts will be Hagel’s most pressing and constant challenge, and that may eventually lead to a more public conflict with the president, according to Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who voted against Hagel during his confirmation.

“The first thing he’s got to do is confront the political team in the White House which is asserting too much influence over policy decisions,” Sessions told Politico. “I just think it’s his duty to speak the truth to the president and stand up, and you can’t just always continue in office if you are asked to execute a policy that you truly believe is harmful. You have to make up your mind if you should stay or leave.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hagel Orders Same-Sex Benefits for All National Guards.


Image: Hagel Orders Same-Sex Benefits for All National Guards

By Lisa Barron

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the National Guards in all states to issue ID cards that enable same-sex spouses of military members to claim benefits.

Blasting nine states that have refused to do so, Hagel said in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League in New York on Thursday, “This is wrong,” reports The Hill.

Urgent: ObamaCare Is About to Strike — Are You Prepared?

“Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they’re entitled to,” Hagel said in prepared remarks.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Pentagon issued a directive that same-sex partners of military members would be eligible for the same healthcare, housing, and other benefits available by opposite-sex spouses.

But some states have refused to offer the necessary Pentagon ID cards on National Guard facilities, arguing that doing so conflicted with their state bans on same-sex marriage.
Hagel did not name those states, but the Pentagon has cited nine: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia,reports Fox News.

The Pentagon said there are 114 Army and Air National Guard sites in those states that are not providing ID cards to eligible same-sex spouses.

Hagel said he instructed Gen. Frank Grass, who heads the National Guard, to meet with the Guard state leaders in the nine states to resolve the issue.

A senior defense official told The Hill that Hagel is prepared “to take further action” if the states do not comply.

Hagel announced the order in his keynote address for the ADL’s Centennial dinner, which was honoring his predecessor, Leon Panetta.

He also used his speech to announce that he has directed the Marine Corps to expedite the manufacture and delivery to Israel of V-22 Osprey aircraft, hybrids that take off and land like a helicopter and cruise like an airplane, according to Fox.

Urgent: ObamaCare Is About to Strike — Are You Prepared?

Hagel also offered assurances that pursuing diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program is a way of testing Tehran’s intentions.

“As we engage Iran with our partners, we are very clear-eyed about reality in the Middle East. But foreign policy is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “If we can find ways to resolve disputes peacefully, we are wise to explore them.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hagel: Budget Uncertainty Undermines National Security.


Image: Hagel: Budget Uncertainty Undermines National Security

By Lisa Barron

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has warned that further budget uncertainty could harm the Pentagon and undermine U.S. national security.

And he urged lawmakers working to draft bill to fund the government by mid-January to show flexibility in order to reach a long-term spending agreement.

“Our allies are asking questions: Can we rely on our partnership with America? Will America fulfill its commitments and its promises?” he said at a Pentagon news conference,reports The Washington Post.

“These are huge issues for all of us and they do impact our national security…and our standing in the world,” Hagel said.

The temporary deal reached by Congress and the White House on Wednesday authorized the Pentagon to spend $496 billion in the 2014 fiscal year that began Oct. 1, unchanged from the 2013 budget.

The administration had proposed a $526 billion defense budget for the 2014 fiscal year on the assumption that the budget-slashing imposed by sequestration would be eliminated.

Now, unless Congress acts to end the cuts, the Defense Department would have to spend less than what it requested in the spring.

“I think all of us are aware that it will be a somewhat different, smaller military if we have to go through with these cuts,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said at the news conference.

“We will be as prepared as we can, within the limits of time that we have, to be ready for a wide range of contingencies, because we know that’s what we face,” he told reporters.

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Defense Chief Hagel: More Budget Cuts Will Force Pentagon Layoffs

Obama Warnings Fall Flat as Agencies Cope With Sequester Cuts

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hagel at DMZ: NKorea Watching Syria Developments.


Image: Hagel at DMZ: NKorea Watching Syria Developments

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens to U.S. Army Col. James Minnich as a North Korean soldier takes a photograph through a window at a UN truce village building that sits on the border of the DMZ in Panmunjom on Sept. 30.

Standing just steps from the heavily armed border with North Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that Pyongyang is closely watching the international response to Syria‘s use of chemical weapons against its own people.

And, with North Korean soldiers eyeing his every move, Hagel told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. has no plans to reduce its military presence in South Korea, despite the ongoing budget crisis.

Hagel’s visit is timed to the 60th anniversary of the signing of the mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and South Korea, and to reinforce America’s commitment to the security of the peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region.

“There is no margin for error up here,” Hagel said after a stop in one of the three small blue conference houses that sit on the border of North and South Korea. “This is probably the only place in the world that we have always a risk of confrontation. Where the two sides are looking clearly and directly at each other all the time.”

Inside the house, Hagel stepped briefly onto the North Korean side. And when he moved back outside to speak to a crowd of reporters, North Korean soldiers stepped up to the border just alongside the building and watched from about 40 feet away.

Hagel said it’s been pretty clear that North Korea, which also has a large stockpile of chemical weapons, has been monitoring the unfolding international effort to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal. And while he’s not sure what message the North may take from the latest Syrian developments, U.S. officials suggest that the unanimous U.N. resolution could send a warning shot to Pyongyang.

China, which has been North Korea’s only major ally, and Russia both backed the U.N. resolution on Syria. And China has struck a more critical tone regarding North Korea in the past year, cooperating with the U.S. on tightening U.N. sanctions following Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test in February.

Other experts, however, caution that America’s failure to follow through on its threats earlier this year to launch airstrikes into Syria to stop further use of chemical weapons there, could be interpreted by the North as a sign of weakness.

“If we had used force, I would guess that from North Korea’s point of view that would be seen as potentially more threatening, because it would demonstrate a real willingness for the US to use force,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. There is the potential, she said, for other nations to conclude that, at the end of the day, “the United States is just not as strong as it used to be.”

Just 10 miles south of the North and South Korean border, however, U.S. and Korean troops went through a training exercise Monday as Hagel watched, all aimed at showing that the military is ready to respond if needed.

At the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division demonstrated an offensive maneuver with Apache helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles, filling the training ground with a haze of smoke and blasts from mortar fire. The exercise was part of the military certification for one of the U.S. platoons serving in South Korea.

From there, Hagel went to Observation Post Ouellette, one of 77 guard posts that line the South Korean side of the border. He then stopped further down the road at Freedom House, where the blue conference buildings stand largely unused these days as a chill has once again settled over North and South Korean communications.

Since March, the North Koreas have refused to answer the routine phone calls from the South’s side of the border. On Monday, however, Hagel and his staff attracted a bit of attention from the North as the group toured the South’s border facilities.

In addition to the ever-present North Korean guards standing both at the border and a bit further up the hill at their larger outpost, a small group of tourists also stopped to stare down at the group of Americans. According to officials, the tours come through as many as seven to 10 times a day.

Hagel is expected to meet with South Korean officials over the next several days, including events and a parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the alliance as well as Armed Forces Day.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

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