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Entries in Chuck Hagel (4)

Sunday
Apr072013

Minuteman 3 Missile Test Delayed in Light of North Korea Situation

iStockphoto(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel  has delayed a Minuteman 3 missile test that had been scheduled for Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California “to avoid misperception or manipulation” by North Korea, according to a senior defense official who spoke with ABC News.

The official said the test has been long planned “and thus unconnected from the recent tensions with North Korea.”

“We recognized that an ICBM test at this time might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea,” the official said. “We wanted to avoid that misperception or manipulation.

“We are committed to testing our ICBMs to ensure a safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal,” a second defense official said. “The test is being rescheduled, likely next month.”

According to the senior official, Hagel made his decision Friday night.

The test was for the Air Force and not part of the Missile Defense Agency’s program to test missile interceptors as part of the missile defense program designed to counter a North Korean missile threat to the U.S.

MDA routinely conducts tests of the interceptor missiles and uses Minuteman 3′s for targeting purposes.
The test that had been planned for Tuesday was part of a long-scheduled series of launches for the Air Force’s Global Strike Command to test the effectiveness of the Minuteman 3 fleet.  The U.S. has 450 of the missiles in its arsenal that are equipped to carry nuclear warheads.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar112013

Tense Times for Afghanistan and the United States

Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In what appears to be the latest sign of a deteriorating relationship between two allies, a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital of Kabul was canceled on Sunday due to “security concerns.”

The two met privately, and Pentagon press secretary George Little denied the cancellation was because of remarks made earlier by Karzai suggesting that the Taliban and the U.S. were in cahoots.

At an earlier news conference, Karzai suggested that the U.S. government and the Taliban, while using different means, were working in concert to keep Afghanistan unstable and convince Afghans that violence will get worse when foreign troops leave as scheduled at the end of next year.

Karzai described pessimistic reports about his country’s future after NATO troops leave in 2014 as propaganda promoted via the Western news media with the intention of undermining Afghan confidence in their country and his government.

“There is a lot of negative propaganda about what will happen after 2014,” Karzai said, adding that it is being forecast as a disaster film and thought of as “the 2014 movie.”

Karzai also accused the United States of sending different signals about its view of the Taliban.  The Afghan leader says the U.S., on one hand, claims the Taliban is the enemy, but then it engages the group in negotiations. 

The United States is not presently talking with the Taliban, but it has in the past.  Karzai claims many Afghans are confused about the U.S. government’s true intent.

The Afghan leader then said, “On the one hand the Taliban are talking with the Americans, but on the other hand, they carry out a bombing in Kabul,” a reference to a suicide bombing on Saturday outside the Afghan defense ministry.

Karzai continued, “Yesterday’s bombing in Kabul [and another in the city of Khost] didn’t aim to show Taliban’s strength; indeed they serve America.  By those bombings they served the 2014 negative slogan.  These bombings aimed to prolong the presence of the American forces in Afghanistan.”

Asked about his private meeting with Karzai, Hagel told reporters the two had “a very direct conversation.” 

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, continued, “I know these are difficult issues for President Karzai and the Afghan people.  And I was once a politician.  So I can understand the kind of pressures -- especially leaders of countries -- are always under.”

Hagel said he had confidence that the United States and Afghanistan “could move forward” and “deal with these issues.”

In comments to reporters before Karzai’s private meeting with Hagel, America’s new top commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Joseph Dunford, insisted that the two countries still get along. 

“We do not have a broken relationship,” Dunford declared.

Dunford, however, strongly disagreed with Karzai’s claims that the U.S. wants instability in Afghanistan.

“We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we have shed too much blood over the past 12 years, we have done too much to help the Afghan security forces grow over the past 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage,” Dunford told reporters.

Afghan observers note that Karzai’s outburst on Sunday came in the wake of the cancellation of an agreement in which the U.S. had promised to hand over control of Bagram Prison to Afghanistan.

Atiqullah Amarkhel, a former Afghan Army general and a military analyst, told The New York Times that Karzai’s “prestige as president was degraded in the eyes of the public by the Americans’ refusal to hand over responsibility of the prison to the Afghans.”

“I think it drives him crazy when he sees it’s not happening,” Amarkhel said, adding, “It also shows a deep sense of distrust between two one-time allies. To the public, it means all the power is with foreigners.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar092013

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Afghan Visit Met by Suicide Attacks

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- At least 18 people are dead following two suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday that coincided with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the country.

The first bomber struck the defense ministry in Kabul. The bomber was riding a bicycle when the bomb was set off. Nine people were killed and 20 additional people were injured.

The aftermath of the scene was chaotic. The explosion was so strong it left large shrapnel holes in nearby concrete blast walls.

Saturday's other reported attack occurred outside Khost, a city to the south-east of Kabul. The bomber was on foot, targeting a joint patrol close to the U.S. military's Camp Salerno base, according to a police spokesman who spoke with BBC News.

A policeman spotted the bomber and hugged him in an attempt to shield others from some of the force of the blast with his body. Still, ninewere killed, and some boys working in a nearby field were caught in the blast.

Hagel was in Kabul during the bombing, though at a different location.

It was not a coincidence that the attacks happened while Hagel was in Afghanistan. In an email, the Taliban took credit for the Kabul attack and said they had targeted one of the entrances used by soldiers and officers.

"The attack happened during the trip of the U.S. defense secretary, and the attack had a message for him," the statement added.

Hagel expressed his condolences to those who lost loved ones. The defense secretary came to Afghanistan to get a better feel for what it was like on the ground, and was not shocked by the suicide bombings or the reality of the situation.

“We're in a war zone. I've been in war,” Hagel said. “So, [we] shouldn't be surprised if a bomb goes off or an explosion."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan312013

Chuck Hagel Says US Patience for Iran Is Limited

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Responding to written questions by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel suggested that the Obama administration would be ready to get tough with Iran if diplomacy fails to convince Tehran that it must give up its illicit nuclear ambitions.

In advance of his appearance before Congress next week, Hagel apparently wants to dispel the perception that he is somehow "soft" on Iran, given his previous skepticism of sanctions against the regime while he was a Nebraska senator.

Hagel wrote back to the Senate panel, "While there is time and space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, the window is closing.  Iran needs to demonstrate it is prepared to negotiate seriously."

Hagel, who has also been criticized for not showing enough support for Israel, the sworn enemy of Iran, is adopting the White House view that all options are on the table, including military action, if Iran ignores the sanctions and continues its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

However, not all are convinced that Hagel is being true in his new convictions.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who has already said he would vote against Hagel, told his fellow lawmakers, "This sudden and convenient transformation beggars belief.  He just wants to win approval from members of this chamber in what we might call a confirmation conversion."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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