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Army Chief of Staff Odierno defends Panetta's Afghanistan comments

Panetta stirred up controversy last week when he become the first high-ranking administration official to publicly say that the United States would seek to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013, coming out ahead of both the White House and NATO.

When asked if he knew whether Panetta planned to make his remarks, Odierno said "we have lots of conversations with Secretary Panetta. He is very hands on. He is very collaborative with the joint chiefs."

"I would just tell you that this has been our strategy all along, is that over time we are going to transition more responsibility to the Afghans and I think that's still what our plan is," said Odierno on "Fox and Friends" Monday in an interview pre-taped before the Super Bowl.

He told Fox News that the military will conduct assessments with commanders in Afghanistan during the troop drawdown.

"I think Secretary Panetta was just walking through the continued turnover responsibility to the Afghans over time," he added.

Odierno also weighed in on the potential $600 billion in sequestration cuts to the Defense Department set to go into effect in 2013, calling it a "significant threat" to the security of the United States.

Lawmakers have decried the potential cuts, and several senators have introduced legislation to replace the Defense cuts with other parts of the federal budget.

The Army chief said that reductions in end strength and modernization plans have been put in place, due to the military budget cuts already being enacted.

Panetta announced the first cuts in a 10-year, $487 billion reduction in Pentagon spending last month as part of Obama's overall plan to reduce government spending and shrink the national deficit.

"We've done a lot already, so it's important we do not go to sequestration," Odierno said. "Bottom line is, it would be devastating. We'd have to re-look our strategy."

Odierno, who played football while at West Point, was in Indianapolis Sunday before the Super Bowl touting a partnership between the Army and NFL to better understand and reduce the stigma of traumatic brain injuries.

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