09:26 GMT19 January 2021
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    Despite announcing a significant part of his national security and foreign policy teams, Joe Biden, who is currently the projected winner of the US presidential election, is yet to reveal his candidates to head the Pentagon and the CIA. Initial media reports about his potential picks, however, are already raising questions.

    Democratic candidate and projected winner of the presidential election Joe Biden is reportedly considering two former national security officials as the possible future head of the CIA, Politico reported, citing anonymous sources. One of them is Obama-era National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, while the other is Michael Morell, who has in the past headed the CIA as acting director and served three years as the intelligence agency's deputy director.

    Former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon attends a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) at the White House in Washington February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
    © REUTERS / Carlos Barria
    Former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon attends a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) at the White House in Washington February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    According to the media outlet, the Democrat currently leans towards Donilon's candidacy. In addition, Morell's appointment might face opposition from fellow Democrats in the Congress, some of whom consider the former CIA head a defender of the use of torture due to remarks me made describing waterboarding as troubling, but one of the "most effective" interrogation techniques.

    The position of CIA director is not the only one that remains vacant in the projected Biden administration – the Democrat is yet to pick the chief of the Pentagon. Media reports so far have suggested only one main candidate that Biden is considering for the post – former Under Secretary of Defence Michèle Flournoy. However, her views on US foreign policy might not align with that of the reported main candidate to head the CIA, Donilon. While the two are responsible for different areas of US national security, they normally have a somewhat similar view on its general direction.

    'Pivot' Back to Asia or Refocus on Middle East?

    Tom Donilon went down in history as one of the main architects of Obama's famous "pivot to Asia" policy, which suggested a number of changes to US foreign policy, but mainly to shift its focus from Middle East issues to the situation around China. On the one hand, the policy suggested greater engagement from Washington with Beijing's neighbours, including in terms of military cooperation in the form of joint drills and the construction of military bases. On the other hand, the policy – partially penned and strongly supported by Donilon – suggested greater cooperation with China itself to build a "healthy, stable, and reliable military-to-military relationship".

    Former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, participates in a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
    © REUTERS / Yuri Gripas
    Former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, participates in a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

    Flournoy, on the other hand, always placed great emphasis on the Middle East, although she never dismissed concerns relating to the Asia-Pacific region entirely. She namely called for actively supplying US partners in the region with weapons, supported the Iraq War in 2003, and advocated for an increase in the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan during the Obama administration. Her approach towards the Asia-Pacific region also differs from that of Donilon, as she has urged for boosting local US military deployments and stepping up the number of war games with Washington's Asian partners as a means of deterring potential Chinese aggression.

    In light of this, Flournoy's views appear to be more aligned with those of another reported candidate for the top CIA post - Michael Morell. The former acting chief of the agency has in his numerous op-eds called for improving the US' military and intelligence power in order to deter adversaries around the world. He is also no stranger to the ideas of using military might to resolve global conflicts, namely urging for the US to conduct precision bombings of Syrian government forces and supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003, despite admitting that the pretext for it was poorly substantiated.

    Whomever Biden chooses for his cabinet, they will likely need to find common ground. That is if Biden successfully wins the Electoral College vote amid attempts by President Donald Trump to challenge the outcome of the election in several states. POTUS is seeking to win the votes needed for victory by trying to dispute the results in court, citing numerous violations in the tallying procedures, as well as fraud that purportedly took place on Election Day.

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    China, Middle East, Joe Biden, Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), US
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