Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Panetta's Final Stretch of Tenure, a New Crisis Emerges

He's been showing some resolve, with comments way more in line with protecting national interests than what the president usually has to say. But he's on the way out, so not much good it's going to do.

At the New York Times, "Panetta, in His Last Lap as Defense Secretary, Navigates a Crisis":

LONDON — Leon E. Panetta’s final weeklong trip to the old capitals of Europe initially had the feel of a valedictory lap, one that would nurture the trans-Atlantic alliance and give him the chance to dine in the Italy of his heritage. His staff had to insist it was not a junket.

But by the time Mr. Panetta, the defense secretary, arrived in Rome on Wednesday, news had broken about the hostage-taking in Algeria as Pentagon officials, frustrated and alarmed, scrambled to get basic information out of Algiers.

Mr. Panetta learned of the seizure of the Algerian gas facility after a meeting on Wednesday afternoon with Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy. He declared it a “terrorist act,” cut short a dinner that night with the Italian defense minister and was up until midnight in his hotel room in briefings.

By Thursday, he was overseeing plans to deploy American military cargo planes to ferry French troops and equipment to Mali, where the government of neighboring Algeria said France’s armed intervention was the cause of the abductions.

On Friday, he trundled into a hastily scheduled meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain as snow fell outside 10 Downing Street. “Let’s start with Algeria,” Mr. Cameron said.

Earlier, Mr. Panetta inserted language into a set-piece speech on the United States’ relationship with Europe, telling students at King’s College London that “terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere.”

But the reality is that pursuing those terrorists and any others is now to be the job of the next defense secretary. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for the post, is encamped down the corridor from Mr. Panetta’s Pentagon office, preparing for his Jan. 31 confirmation hearings. If Mr. Hagel, 66, is confirmed, Mr. Panetta is likely to exit in mid-February, leaving a NATO meeting later that month in Brussels to his successor.

“The time has come for me to go home,” Mr. Panetta told the students in London.
Chuck Hagel the "realist."

Boy, this ought to be interesting. Maybe Hagel will convince Obama to stop saying that the terrorists are "de-capacitated." Or, well, probably not.