New Pentagon chief makes global debut with status uncertain

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At a rare second in Pentagon historical past, a former enterprise government with little political stature and with out navy expertise is making his worldwide debut because the performing U.S. secretary of protection.

After conferring Monday with Afghan leaders and American navy commanders and diplomats in Kabul, Pat Shanahan was scheduled to attend a NATO protection ministers assembly in Brussels and a global safety convention in Munich, Germany. It was Shanahan’s first-ever go to to Afghanistan, the place American troops have been at conflict for 17 years and the Trump administration is pushing for a peace take care of the Taliban.

Shanahan’s efficiency on the worldwide stage may affect whether or not President Donald Trump elevates the longtime Boeing government from his unsure standing as interim Pentagon chief to be the administration’s nominee to switch Jim Mattis. The retired Marine basic give up in late December in protest of Trump’s insurance policies.

In his resignation letter, Mattis supplied to remain on till after this week’s NATO assembly to make sure that the Pentagon’s pursuits have been “correctly articulated and guarded.” However three days after Mattis gave Trump that letter, the president on Dec. 23 advised Mattis to depart the Cupboard on Dec. 31. This unusually sudden transition got here at delicate junctures in Syria, the place Trump has ordered a U.S. troop withdrawal, and Afghanistan, the place a possible troop pullout looms amid continued Taliban violence.

The standing of U.S. forces in Iraq additionally has been put in query as Iraqi leaders responded with anger to Trump’s assertion in early February that he would hold American troops in Iraq with a purpose to watch neighboring Iran. Trump had earlier angered Iraqis by saying he would use Iraq as a base to strike Islamic State targets inside Syria.

It’s extraordinary for the Pentagon to be run by an interim chief and even rarer that the chief is a profession protection business government. Shanahan is barely the third particular person to function performing protection secretary and the primary in 30 years. The final was William H. Taft, who served for 2 months in 1989 after President George H.W. Bush’s first option to be protection secretary, John Tower, turned mired in controversy and in the end didn’t be confirmed by the Senate. Dick Cheney, the longer term vp below President George W. Bush, then was nominated and confirmed.

Shanahan is the primary to undertake a global journey whereas serving as performing secretary, in response to Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood.

Nobody has been nominated to succeed Mattis. Nor has anybody been nominated to succeed Shanahan in his earlier function as deputy protection secretary. The Pentagon’s funds chief, David L. Norquist, has been “performing the duties” of the deputy secretary since Jan. 1.

Presidents sometimes take pains to make sure the Pentagon is being run by a Senate-confirmed official, given the grave duties that embody sending younger Individuals into battle, making certain the navy is prepared for excessive emergencies like nuclear conflict and managing abroad alliances which might be central to U.S. safety.

Trump, nonetheless, appears in no hurry to finish Shanahan’s limbo standing.

“I like performing,” the president mentioned Jan. 6. “It provides me extra flexibility.”

He didn’t clarify what he meant, however the implication was that he can hold Shanahan on a string and never instantly search the recommendation and consent of the Senate. Mattis sought a sure independence from the White Home, which appeared to annoy Trump.

Shanahan advised reporters on Jan. 29 he is not fascinated with how lengthy he would possibly hold his “performing” standing, jokingly including that his mom every morning sends him a “pray” emoticon.

Trump has publicly praised Shanahan a number of occasions, suggesting he favors preserving him on.

“Patrick has a protracted listing of accomplishments” throughout his tenure as deputy protection secretary, Trump tweeted on Dec. 23. Mattis’ resignation from three days earlier had implicitly criticized Trump’s unwillingness to face as much as Russia and his inclination to disrespect America’s longtime allies.

“We’ve got an exquisite man in there now,” Trump mentioned on Dec. 25 throughout a go to to Iraq when a reporter requested if he had a timeline for nominating somebody to succeed Mattis. Trump praised Shanahan profusely, noting his fame at Boeing for managing prices and rescuing a troubled Dreamliner 787 program.

“He may very well be there for a very long time,” Trump mentioned, including, “I am in no rush.”

Though Trump cites Shanahan’s Boeing expertise, Shanahan’s hyperlink to one of many nation’s largest protection contractors shouldn’t be universally praised. Throughout Shanahan’s affirmation listening to in 2017, Sen. John McCain, then chairman of the Senate Armed Providers Committee, sternly cautioned him about what McCain and others noticed because the hazard of a very cozy connection between the Pentagon and its protection contractors.

“I’m involved that 90 p.c of protection spending is within the arms of 5 companies, of which you signify one,” McCain mentioned. “I’ve to have faith that the fox shouldn’t be going to be put again into the hen home.”

Shanahan gained affirmation by a vote of 92-7. One senator, McCain, didn’t vote.

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