US senate confirm Chuck Hagel as defense secretary
By Sadaf Shinwari - Wed Feb 27 2013, 10:16 am
Leon Panetta will now be replaced as head of the Pentagon by the Republican former senator from Nebraska and decorated Vietnam veteran.
This comes as America is seeking to draw down its ground forces in Afghanistan but ramping up its controversial drone warfare across the globe. He is also taking the reigns at the exact moment a fierce budgetary fight is raging in Washington over looming spending cuts, including to large swathes of the military. Defence chiefs have been warning that the planned cuts have already caused delayed deployments of manpower.
Just four Republicans crossed the political divide to back Hagel as he won a 58 to 41 vote in America’s upper chamber. They were Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Richard Shelby from Alabama and, surprisingly, Tea Party favourite Rand Paul from Kentucky, who had been one of Hagel’s staunchest critics.
Hagel was fiercely opposed by many Republicans who angered party leaders when he criticised former President George W Bush’s handling of the Iraq war.
A number of the senators also raised questions about whether Hagel is sufficiently supportive of Israel or tough enough on Iran. However Hagel was fully supported by democrats.