Drastic defence cuts 'turn the page on decade of war'


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The Independent Online

The mighty American military machine that has secured the country's status as the world's only superpower for so long will have to be drastically reduced, Barack Obama, pictured, warned yesterday, as he set out a radical but more modest set of priorities for the Pentagon over the next decade.

After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that defined the first decade of the 20th century, Mr Obama's blueprint for the military's future acknowledged America will no longer have the resources to conduct two such major operations simultaneously. Instead, the US military will lose up to half a million troops and will focus on countering terrorism and meeting the new challenges of an emergent Asia dominated by China.

America, Mr Obama said, was "turning the page on a decade of war", and now faced "a moment of transition". The country's armed forces would in future be leaner but, Mr Obama warned, sufficient to preserve US military superiority over any rival – "agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats".

The wider significance of America's strategic change was underlined by British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who used a visit to Washington to warn America must not delay the production of warplanes bound for British aircraft carriers. The US strategy is expected to involve withdraw ingsome of the 80,000 troops based in Europe.

"We have to look at the relationship with Americans in a slightly different light," Mr Hammond told Channel 4 News. "Europeans have to work with Americans to get better value for money."