The US is a major world power. It’s clear that pivots of the US foreign policy impact developments across the world. Thus, it’s important to know what the US is doing and going to do. SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence team is continuing to provide exclusive reviews of the US official attitude over crucial world events and developments.
Written by Costas Ioannou exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence; Edited by Rachel Lane
United States Africa Command: On 8 Feb, the annual Counter-Terrorism exercise, named Flintlock, kicked off in Senegal with an opening ceremony that brought together senior leaders and guests representing participating countries. This year more than 30 nations are attending Flintlock.
The Flintlock exercise began in 2005 across the Sahel region of Africa. Participating nations are members in the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership. The exercises are planned by African partner nation Special Operations Forces and Special Operations Command-Africa to develop the capacity and collaboration among African security forces.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, Special Operations Command-Africa commander, joined leadership from last year’s Flintlock exercise, hosted by Chad, and Senegalese leadership in exchanging the Flintlock ceremonial flag, signifying the new host nation accepting the lead role for Flintlock 16. This year’s Senegalese-led exercise spans across several locations within the country as well as outposts in Mauritania.
Flintlock 2016 marks the third time the exercise has been hosted by Senegal.
The Senegalese army chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Amadou Kane, welcomed the guests as brothers-in-arms from different countries. Flintlock 2016 will bring together more than 1,700 Soldiers from 33 countries coming from Africa, North America and Europe
On 9 Feb, the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, along with several of his most senior military officers, met with Gen. David Rodriguez, commander, U.S. Africa Command and AFRICOM component commanders to discuss strategies for security cooperation, in Stuttgart, Germany.
The purpose of the visit was to reinforce the importance of a strong US-Nigeria security cooperation relationship. Topics for discussion focused on ways to counter terrorism, joint operations, logistics and maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Participants in the two-day event included AFRICOM’s component commanders as well as the senior primary staff.
From 10th of Feb, the U.S. and five ally and partner nations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region are participating in exercise Cope North 2016(CN16) at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The exercise will continue through the 26th of this month.
Exercise CN16 is a long-standing exercise designed to enhance multilateral air operations between the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defence Force and Royal Australian Air Force. As part of CN16, additional participants from the Philippines Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force will participate in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training.
More than 930 U.S. Airmen and Sailors will train alongside approximately 490 JASDF, 375 RAAF, 5 PAF, 20 ROKAF and 35 RNZAF service members. Additionally, more than 100 aircraft, comprised of 23 flying units from the U.S. and Indo-Asia-Pacific region, will participate in CN16.
The exercise began with a two-day table-top Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief exercise to enhance command and control prior to the week-long HA/DR training. During the second part of the exercise, the focus will shift to large-force employment training, fighter-versus-fighter air combat tactics training, and air-to-ground strike mission training over the Farallon de Medinilla range located 160 nautical miles north of Guam. The U.S. Air Force’s 353rd Combat Training Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, will participate in the exercise and conduct multilateral survival training for the first time this year.
Additionally during CN16, Andersen AFB will open its doors to the general public to attend an open house featuring static displays and flyovers.
On 11 Feb, U.S Air Force officials announced the selection of Tinian as the preferred alternative for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands PACAF Divert Activities and Exercises Initiative. This is the modified Tinian only alternative described in the revised draft.
The purpose of the initiative is to establish additional divert capabilities to support training activities, while ensuring the capability to meet mission requirements in the event access to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, or other western Pacific locations is limited or denied.
The initiative will also improve the Tinian airport infrastructure to support up to 12 tanker aircraft and associated support personnel for divert operations. Periodic exercises would be conducted up to eight weeks per year.
The Air Force will release the final environmental impact statement in the spring after which a record of decision will be signed.
On 10 Feb, U.S Defence Secretary Ash Carter met for the first time with Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan today at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a readout of the meeting.
NATO defence leaders have gathered in Brussels for two days of meetings, which included updates on the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq.
In his discussion with Sajjan, the U.S. defence secretary reinforced the United States’ commitment to intensify the fight against ISIL. Carter also thanked the minister for Canada’s announcement that they intend to triple their training mission in northern Iraq, double their intelligence effort and to expand their humanitarian and development contributions, the press secretary said.
The leaders also discussed Canada’s future contributions to the air campaign through aerial refuelling and surveillance operations.
Both Carter and Sajjan agreed that Afghan security forces have made progress in Afghanistan and that they will need additional support going forward.
The two leaders reiterated the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Canada and the importance of the longstanding military ties between the two countries and committed to stay in close communication.
Also, on the same day the European Reassurance Initiative highlighted a meeting between Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz in Brussels.
In a statement summarizing the meeting between the two defence leaders, Cook said Carter thanked Macierewicz for Poland’s demonstration of leadership within NATO by meeting its commitment at the alliance’s last summit to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defence and for its plans for a robust defence modernization program.
Persistent U.S. Presence in Poland
Carter and Macierewicz discussed the U.S. plan to quadruple funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, which calls for the persistent, rotational presence of U.S. forces in Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
They also discussed the need for NATO to address the full spectrum of threats in both the east and the south, as well as potential Polish contributions to the campaign to counter the Islamic State of Iraq. In addition, they talked about the importance of the U.S.-Poland bilateral defence relationship.
On 11 Feb, U.S Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Saudi Arabia’s Defence Minister, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, met in Brussels to discuss their nations shared security challenges, including the effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq.
The two leaders discussed the importance of accelerating the counter-ISIL campaign.
Carter thanked Salman and underscored the U.S. commitment to the enduring defence partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
On 12 Feb, Ash Carter and the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Defence Affairs Mohammed Al Bowardi met today in Brussels to discuss their nations’ shared security challenges, including the effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq.
Carter thanked the UAE minister for participating in yesterday’s meeting of counter-ISIL coalition defence ministers.
The defence secretary also welcomed the UAE’s willingness to re-join the coalition air campaign and provide additional support on the ground.
The secretary acknowledged the online efforts of the UAE-based Sawab Centre to counter propaganda and reveal ISIL’s true criminal nature and intent, and the work of the Forum for Peace in Muslim Societies to help religious scholars better connect with Muslim youth in the UAE and around the world.
Carter and the minister agreed to continue the close communications between their countries.
On 10 Feb, senior defence officials told U.S. Congress that the administration’s nuclear sustainment and modernization plan is what is needed for effective deterrence, and the plan is affordable if the Defence Department prioritizes it.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces were Robert M. Scher, assistant defence secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, and Arthur Hopkins, acting principal deputy assistant defence secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programs.
Effective deterrence, Scher said, requires that U.S nuclear capabilities and posture allow the nation to implement U.S defence strategy, preserve the strategy’s credibility and reinforce overall strategic stability.
Full Nuclear Triad
The best way to do this is to sustain a full nuclear triad, strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and dual-role aircraft with a range of nuclear explosive yields and delivery modes, he added.
Dual-capable aircraft, or DCA, are allied and U.S. fighter aircraft that can perform both conventional and theatre nuclear missions.
In his remarks Hopkins, also acting staff director for the Nuclear Weapons Council, said the council has developed a strategic plan for integrating all three components of the nuclear enterprise, warheads, platforms and infrastructure. These are for the Navy’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles and the B61 Mod 12 bomb life-extension program for strategic missions and extended deterrence.
In fiscal year 2017, the National Nuclear Security Administration will continue to deliver W761 warheads for the Navy’s Trident D5 missiles and will complete production in FY 2019, he said, and the W88 warhead alteration effort, also for the D5 missile, is on schedule to deliver the first production unit in December 2019.
The B61 bomb life-extension program is also on schedule to deliver a first production unit in March of 2020.
Scher said the B61, the remaining gravity bomb for the nuclear forces, remains strategically important.
Hopkins added, “One of the most significant advantages of the B-61 modernization, which is going to produce the B61-12, is that it’ll take the place of four different variants of the existing B61. So there’s a certain degree of efficiency and … safety associated with reducing the numbers and types of weapons in the inventory.”
Funding Delivery Systems
Modernizing nuclear delivery platforms is essential to nuclear deterrence, Hopkins said, noting that in fiscal 2017 the department will continue funding for several delivery systems.
One is the Ohio-class submarine replacement and its Trident II D5 life-extended missile. Another is sustainment of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile and its follow-on capability, the ground-based strategic deterrent.
Others are upgrades to the B-2 and the B-52H heavy bombers, the development of a long-range strike bomber, and the development of a long-range stand-up cruise missile to replace the aging air-launched cruise missile.