Panetta Troops Could Remain In Iraq

Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 3:53pm

Secretary of Defense nominee says he expects U.S. forces to remain in Iraq beyond 2011.

Leon Panetta, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, got a hero's welcome at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.

It was his CIA team that got Osama bin Laden.

"I can't wait to vote for your confirmation," said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

"I just think the president's put together an A+ national security team and you're one of the lynchpins of that," added South Carolina's Lindsey Graham.

Panetta testified that he believes the Obama plan in Libya, to side with rebels against Muammar Khaddafy, but not send a lot of U.S. forces, will work.

"I think there are some signs that if we continue the pressure, if we stick with it, that ultimately Khaddafy will step down," he said.

He also stated that if the Baghdad government asks, some U.S. forces might delay their withdrawal, due to the fact, Panetta said, that a thousand Al Qaeda fighters remain in Iraq.

Likewise, Panetta testified how U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan this fall is the key.

It must not embolden the Taliban.

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said things there are going according to plan.

"I see no changes likely in the next six months or so that are going to relieve the pressure on the Taliban," Gates said.

Meanwhile, many of the very same Senators who praised Leon Panetta will soon be pressuring him to cut billions from the Pentagon budget.

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