Senate Confirms Gates for US Defense Chief, Signaling Fresh Start at Pentagon

New US Defense Secretary Robert Gates

The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed longtime presidential adviser Robert Gates to be the new US defense secretary, replacing Donald Rumsfeld, who fell into disfavor over the failing US policy in Iraq.

The vote was 95 to two in support of Gates, whose easy confirmation was yet another sign that the US public and the Washington political class had grown weary with the status quo in Iraq.

It also was considered a sharp break with Rumsfeld, who was seen as the leading apologist for many of the administration's missteps and misadventures in Iraq.

On Tuesday Gates' nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, with both Republican and Democrat senators praising his easy-going candor, in sharp contrast to the combative Rumsfeld.

Many in Congress said they pinned their hopes of a reversal of faltering US fortunes in Iraq on Gates's performance at the helm of the Pentagon.

During his day-long vetting by the Senate's powerful military panel Tuesday, Gates warned that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and cautioned that a "regional conflagration" could erupt if the situation did not improve.

That assessment dovetailed the conclusions released Wednesday by the bipartisan ISG, of which Gates was a member until being nominated in early November for the defense post by US President George W. Bush.

Rumsfeld resigned after Bush's Republicans lost control of Congress to the Democrats in November 7 legislative elections, largely over public discontent with the Iraq war.

Gates indicated in his nomination hearing that he was fully aware of the stakes in Iraq and the Middle East.

A former  CIA director and advisor to several presidents, Gates, 63, most recently served as president of Texas A and M University.

Source: AFP

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