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Military Prepares for Threats During Presidential Transition


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The U.S. military, bracing for the first wartime presidential transition in 40 years, is preparing for potential crises during the vulnerable handover period, including possible attacks by al-Qaeda and destabilizing developments in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to senior military officials.

"I think the enemy could well take advantage" of the transfer of power in Washington, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, who launched preparations for the transition months ago, and who will brief the president-elect, the defense secretary nominee and other incoming officials on crisis management and how to run the military.

Officials are working "to make sure we are postured the right way around the world militarily, that our intelligence is focused on this issue, and in day-to-day operations the military is making sure it does not happen," Mullen said in an interview. "If it does happen, we need to be in a position to respond before and after the inauguration."

Mullen, who will serve at least another year in his two-year appointment as the nation's top military officer, expects to provide critical continuity between the two administrations at a dangerous juncture, the senior officials said. He "will be in effect the bridge between the two," said a senior military official familiar with Mullen's transition team, made up of 14 senior officers from across the services.

The military's primary focus during the transition is twofold: to heighten preparations for a crisis requiring military force, and to anticipate and advise the incoming administration on likely new directions in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said. High-level briefings on the risks and benefits of new strategies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as longer-term issues such as military modernization, are already being prepared for national security officials of the incoming administration, they said.

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