WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan meets his NATO counterparts today and tomorrow, fresh off visits to war zones where allied help is critical.
Shanahan told reporters that his visits this week to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he also was briefed on the anti-ISIS effort in Syria, were valuable learning experiences that will generate “what the opportunities are for the coalition.
“Tomorrow will be a good day,” Shanahan told reporters while en route to Brussels, referring to meeting his NATO defense counterparts,
Shanahan also said he is not bothered by the fact that he is “acting” defense secretary and said it does not detract from his ability to do the job and interface with peers.
“The Department of Defense is an amazing institution, and whether it’s ‘Acting’ next to your name or not, it’s the same job. I’ll do the same — I’ll do the job the same way,” he told reporters.
Shanahan made his remarks to a small group of reporters, known as a pool, traveling with him this week. Talk Media News is part of the larger media pool and shares the reporting.
He is attending a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, followed by an international security conference in Munich, Germany.
Shannon’s remarks came in response to comments made by the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday suggesting that Shanahan might not be able to win a Senate confirmation vote to remove the “acting” in his title.
“If you’re an ‘acting,’ you don’t have the force you need in the office,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) told the Defense Writers Group. “I think he (President Trump) is going to nominate somebody.”
When asked if Shanahan would be that somebody, Inhofe told reporters, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Shanahan said he is focusing on the next steps for Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said the U.S. is “on track” for a “coordinated disciplined withdrawal” from Syria. Asked about the timeline for withdrawal, Shanahan said, “We’re on schedule to our commitment.”
He also indicated the U.S. troops would not likely be part of any observer force that remains in eastern and northeastern Syria once the withdrawal of current U.S. elements occurs.