View Full Version : Senators Grill Nominee to Lead Forces in Iraq

Rocky C
06-24-10, 03:59 PM
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 24, 2010 16:03:44 EDT

For Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, nominated to take command of U.S. forces in Iraq, the most important issue at his Thursday confirmation hearing was whether he had ever given an interview to a major magazine criticizing U.S. political and military leaders.

Austin testified one day after the high-profile resignation of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for comments attributed to him in a Rolling Stone magazine article.

At his hearing, Austin’s many military accomplishments and his plans for a sharp reduction and ultimate withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq by December 2011 seemed less important than the fact that nobody expects him to give interviews that embarrass the U.S.

Austin would succeed Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, who sat beside him at the hearing and has been nominated to take over as chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Austin spoke of continuing current strategy that calls for supporting the government forming in Iraq while preparing for the withdrawal of about 30,000 troops from the current force of 83,000 by the end of August.

While acknowledging the challenges that remain, particularly in helping to form a viable Iraqi government, Austin said he believes “the current military approach is sound.”

Odierno said the long transition to a democratic government in Iraq “has made people nervous,” but he is encouraged that Iraqi security forces are improving, and he supports the timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals.

“It is time,” he said.

Austin also was optimistic about further troop reductions by next summer. “We can have a good glide slope to get where we need to be,” he said.

While noting that commanders “must continuously assess the situation on the ground and adjust operational procedures,” he said he believes that under current conditions, the U.S. will “transition its focus from combat to stability operations” in Iraq by Sept. 1.

A vote on the Odierno and Austin nominations, which would entail a fourth star for Austin, is expected to be put off until next week, when the armed services committee intends to hold a hearing on the nomination of Army Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, to replace McChrystal as commander of multinational forces in Afghanistan.