The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted unanimously in favor of Robert Gates, President Bush’s choice to be the next Defense Secretary.
Gates was on Capital Hill today, taking questions from the Committee as part of his confirmation procession. As expected, the Iraq war dominated much of the questioning.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary nominee, Robert Gates wasted no time painting a bleak picture of the volatile situation in Iraq.
“Do you believe the US is winning the war in Iraq?” asked Senator Carl Levin.
“No sir, I do not,” Gates responded. Gates went on to say the US isn’t losing the war either. The questioning in his confirmation hearings is just a mild prelude to what he will face on the job.
“I would like to offer my congratulations and condolences for your appointment,” Senator John McCain offered to Gates.
The monumental task of dealing with the war in Iraq will be Gates’ top priority. He has so far revealed little about his thinking on new approaches to stabilizing the country but has said leaving Iraq in chaos could lead to a widespread regional conflict.
“The United States is going to have to have some presence in Iraq for a long time. The Iraqi forces clearly have no logistical capability of their own,” Gates explained.
With the public growing increasingly impatient with the Iraq war, Democrats poised to take control of Congress have indicated they’re eager to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as quickly as possible.
“We need a strong Secretary of Defense, but that doesn’t mean strong-headed,” commented Senator Hilary Clinton.
Gates, who is expected to be easily confirmed, says he will look to military leaders on the ground for direction but that it’s ultimately the President who will decide the course of action for Iraq.
With the Iraq Study Group Report set to be released tomorrow, Gates, a former member of the Bipartisan Commission, will advise President Bush on its recommendations that are expected to include the drawdown of US troops and US talks with Iran and Syria.