US Foreign Policy – Jan. 18-24, 2016

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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. 

US Foreign Policy - Jan. 18-24, 2016

Written by Costas Ioannou exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence

Asia-Pacific

On Jan.18, U.S Defence Secretary Ash Carter joined Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery today before welcoming the prime minister to the Pentagon for a discussion on defence cooperation between the United States and Australia.

In a statement provided by Peter Cook, Pentagon press secretary, Carter and Turnbull discussed recent developments in Iraq and Syria, and the need to continue close collaboration on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Carter expressed appreciation for Australia’s contributions to the counter-ISIL coalition, as well as Australia’s continued support in Afghanistan. Carter said he looks forward to Australia’s participation in the counter-ISIL coalition meeting Jan. 20, in Paris.

On Jan. 22, Defence Secretary Ash Carter said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that China as a rising power is a major factor in Asia and the South China Sea that’s welcomed by the United States in almost every way.

The secretary spoke in the forum’s global security panel with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam of Singapore.

While Carter said he does not believe conflict between the United States and China is inevitable, he added, “It’s certainly not desirable. I don’t think it’s likely.”

More Nations on the Rise

China’s rise is not the only one going on in Asia, he said, noting that India and Japan also are rising military powers, while other nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines also are expanding.

U.S. Firmly Against Claims, Outposts

The United States has said nations in the Asia-Pacific region should not militarize, Carter said.

“To be clear,” he added, “China is not the only one making claims we do not agree with, and they are not the only ones with military outposts. We oppose all of that.”

The United States will continue on the same path it’s taken in the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. alliances are continuing to strengthen with nations that include Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, India and Vietnam, the secretary said.

Europe, NATO and the Middle-East

On Jan. 19, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer arrived in Brussels for discussions with their NATO allies on Afghanistan, the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq, and regional challenges facing the alliance.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was there to attend the Jan. 21 NATO Military Committee/Chiefs of Staff meeting. Navy Capt. Gregory Hicks, the chairman’s special assistant for public affairs, said Dunford will take opportunities during his visit to “reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO and the importance of unity of the alliance.”

During the one-day meeting, Dunford discussed the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, the counter-ISIL campaign, regional security issues about Russia and the surge of refugees in Europe.

The meeting hosted Mediterranean Dialogue counterparts on the topic of security developments in the region and military-to-military cooperation.

According to the agenda, the final sessions of the day focused on NATO’s future strategy and the consensus-based military advice and guidance that will be given to the North Atlantic Council and Defence Ministers in the run-up to the NATO Summit in Warsaw later this year.

On Jan. 20, Defence Secretary Ash Carter was in Paris to meet with his French counterpart and to attend a defence ministerial, which was the first face-to-face meeting of representatives from all seven countries providing major contributions to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.

The secretary met with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and 21st of January attended the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

While in Davos, Carter said he would speak with important leaders on topics that include the counter-ISIL campaign.

Crushing ISIL

Carter said that he and Le Drian were on the phone hours after the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris, coordinating a crushing response against ISIL in Raqqa, enhancing intelligence sharing and discussing the coalition’s next steps.

The campaign’s objectives, Carter said, are to destroy ISIL’s headquarters in Iraq and Syria, combat ISIL elements worldwide and protect the U.S. homeland from attacks by the terrorist group.

Strong Contributions

This plan accelerates the U.S. effort to defeat ISIL, Carter said he discussed the plan with coalition partners who are already making strong contributions to the fight.

Defence ministers from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States attended the meeting.

Brussels Ministerial

In three weeks, the first meeting of defence ministers from all 26 counter-ISIL military coalition nations plus Iraq will convene in Brussels to discuss other opportunities to defeat ISIL.

On Jan. 21, at NATO headquarters in Brussels the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the effort to isolate the Syrian city of Raqqa in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and is producing some success.

Isolating Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold and administrative capital, entails finding “moderate Syrian opposition forces”, supporting them with ammunition, and having them take action on the ground to cut access, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told reporters.

The fight in Syria is intertwined with the fight in Iraq, the general noted. He added that the efforts for Raqqa are complemented by the success of the Kurdish Peshmerga operation around the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar.

The fight against ISIL, he said, involves cutting the lines of communication and hindering freedom of movement between Raqqa and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest city captured by the terrorists.

‘Decisive Operations’ for Mosul

The efforts are putting pressure “360-degrees” on ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the chairman commented. He highlighted positive developments, including the Peshmerga consolidating large swaths of northern Iraq.

Success in Mosul depends on the local population rejecting the terrorists and their brutality, Dunford said, noting that ISIL gained support of the populace through “fear and intimidation.”

U.S. Objectives Not Changed By Russia

Russian involvement in Syria has not changed the U.S. objectives, the chairman said. He said he is satisfied that the flight safety mechanisms put in place in October have allowed the campaign to continue as planned.

The chairman said he has talked with his Russian counterpart twice on a wide range of issues. That dialogue is important, he said, because it will help “mitigate the risk of miscalculation.”

Military-to-military relationships should be “enduring, even during challenging periods,” Dunford said. “I think that we have experience of that throughout the Cold War, and I think it was useful then, and I think it to be useful now,” he added. The United States and Russia have different goals in Syria, he pointed out.

Africa

On Jan. 19, U.S Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and a bipartisan Congressional delegation concluded two days of meetings in Arusha, Tanzania focused on economic development, health and human rights, conservation and regional security. They also discussed about electrify Africa and anti-poaching initiatives.

Meetings with American and Tanzanian officials included:

  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania Mark Childress.
  • Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa Tom Perriello.
  • USAID Tanzania Acting Mission Director Daniel Moore and Director General, Tanzania National Parks, Allan Kijazi.

On Jan. 22, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that he and his French counterpart discussed the fight against the core Islamic State of Iraq, as well as the framework against ISIL terrorists in Libya.

Speaking to reporters after talks with his French counterpart, Gen. Pierre de Villiers, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. described France as an “extraordinarily capable partner” in the fight against core ISIL and in the broader fight.

As a member of the coalition fighting ISIL, France conducts airstrikes against terrorist targets, and recently sent its aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle into the fight. Some 3,500 French troops are deployed in the effort, with 3,500 more French troops fighting against terrorists in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Decisive Military Action’ in Libya

Dunford said he and de Villiers discussed the framework for military action in Libya against ISIL terrorists.

Military action must be carefully thought out, he said, and must include building a coalition and finding capable partners on the ground.

“It’s a pretty complex situation, and we just need to make sure that what we’re doing is nested in a political end-state,” he added.

In addition to targeting ISIL in the near term in the context of the political process, the strategy for Libya needs simultaneously to assist partners in the region with their own capability for providing security, Dunford said.

The longer-term U.S strategy, the chairman said, must support the building of security capacity inside Libya.

Also on Jan. 22, the Members of the Joint Troika (United States, United Kingdom, and Norway) expressed their deep concern at delays in forming the Transitional Government of National Unity, which was due to be completed today. Advancing implementation of the peace agreement, reviving the economy, and implementing critical reforms depend on the formation of the transitional government. The Presidential Decree establishing 28 states has created an obstacle to consensus. They urged all parties to make immediate efforts to resolve this impasse and to form the transitional government as soon as possible.

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