President Obama's nominee for defense secretary is defending his views of the military and global threats.
At his confirmation hearing on Thursday in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee, former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska told senators that America "must engage, not retreat, in the world." He said his record is consistent on that point.
The 66-year-old decorated Vietnam combat veteran would be the first former enlisted man to become defense secretary. He would be the lone Republican in the Obama Cabinet if the Senate were to confirm him.
Sen. John McCain tangled with Hagel over his past statements about the Iraq war. The Arizona Republican said his dissatisfaction with Hagel's answers could affect whether he votes for or against him.
McCain, a strong backer of the 2007 troop surge, pressed Hagel on whether he was right or wrong in his opposition to the influx of 30,000 troops. Hagel declined to give a simple answer, seeking to elaborate and saying that Iraq took the U.S. focus off Afghanistan.
Hagel said it will be important to protect from potential Afghan prosecution any American troops who remain there after the allied combat mission ends in 2014. Hagel was asked about Obama's pending decision on how many troops, if any, to keep in Afghanistan after 2014. He said that as of Thursday Obama had not made a decision. One factor Obama is considering is whether the Afghan government will agree to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution under Afghan laws.
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