By Jirtme Cartillier, AFP
WASHINGTON–President Barack Obama on Friday named Ashton Carter, a highly regarded technocrat, to lead the Pentagon as the U.S. military embarks on the latest phase in its 13-year war against Islamic extremists. Obama praised the 60-year-old Carter, saying that as U.S. defense secretary he would bring to the job ��a unique blend of strategic perspective and technical know-how.�� ��All of which means on day one, he will hit the ground running,�� Obama said, making the announcement from the White House. Carter, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate, was named to replace Chuck Hagel, who resigned under pressure last week, criticized by some as too passive in the face of a rapidly changing security situation. The U.S. military that Carter is expected to inherit finds itself in an air war against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, a sharp reversal of course for an administration that had sought to bring home troops after 13 years of fighting. He must also oversee the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, as well as challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear program and China’s growing military might. Carter said he had accepted Obama’s offer ��because of the seriousness of the strategic challenges we face �X but also the bright opportunities that exist for America if we can come together to grab hold of them.��
Hagel called Carter after the announcement and promised a smooth transition. In a statement issued as he embarked on his last foreign trip as secretary, he said he strongly supported Carter’s nomination. Hagel, a Republican, has rejected accounts that he was forced out and said it was a mutual agreement with the president. ��But I think you have to know when to leave, too,�� he added. Hard-charging style
A policy wonk with degrees in Medieval history and theoretical physics, Carter has gained a reputation as an expert on high-tech weapons and military budgets, portraying himself as a reformer intent on making the vast Pentagon bureaucracy more efficient. He served as deputy secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013 under former defense secretary Leon Panetta, and in other top Pentagon posts over the years.