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Defense Policy Nominee Pledges Work on Iraq, Afghanistan, National Security

By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2009 – During her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to become undersecretary of defense for policy vowed to rebalance U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and advance U.S. security interests in other parts of the world.

Michele A. Flournoy told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if confirmed, she will work with Obama to responsibly end the war in Iraq and shift more focus to stabilizing Afghanistan. She also said she will work to reduce the strain on the military and ensure military members have the resources they need.

“This is a critical time for our country,” she said. “The stakes are high, the resources are tight and the need to make hard choices is pressing.”

Flournoy said she believes the United States needs to increase its troop presence in Afghanistan, and that the increase should happen quickly. Creating a new strategy in Afghanistan by working with NATO, the Afghan government and international donors will be one of the top priorities for the new administration, she said.

“I think our objective in Afghanistan has got to be to create a more stable and secured environment that allows longer-term stabilization and prevents Afghanistan from returning to being a safe haven for terrorism,” she said.

As the United States focuses more on Afghanistan, emphasis will shift away from Iraq, Flournoy said. However, she emphasized, that shift needs to be done in a responsible manner, in accordance with the status-of-forces agreement between the United States and Iraq.

“I don't know what the long-term support for Iraqi forces in our long-term relationship is going to look like,” she said. “I don't know if the Iraqi government will want any U.S. forces in Iraq once … we reach the end of the SOFA agreement. So I think it's an open question.”

Flournoy, who served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction in the Clinton administration, said she looks forward to again contributing to national security and working to support the troops.

“I will do my best to help the U.S. military adapt to the challenges of the 21st century,” she said. “I will also do my best to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform have what they need to be successful in the field and that they have the peace of mind knowing that their families are receiving the support that they deserve.”

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