US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Saturday said that he still plans to shift the US military’s focus to competing with China and Russia, even as security threats pile up in the Middle East.
Esper outlined his strategic goals and priorities in a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum, an annual gathering of government, defense industry and military officials.
Esper, who became Pentagon chief in late July, said he is sticking to the national defense priorities set by his predecessor, former US secretary of defense Jim Mattis, who was sitting in his audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Since Mattis resigned one year ago in protest of US President Donald Trump’s push to withdraw from Syria, the Middle East has become even more volatile.
At least 14,000 additional US troops have been sent to the Persian Gulf area since May out of concern about Iranian actions.
Syria has arguably become a more complex problem for Washington, with Turkish forces having moved into areas in the north where US forces had been partnering with Syrian Kurdish fighters against remnants of the Islamic State extremist group.
Also, Iraq is facing civil protests and a violent crackdown by security forces.
The deadly shooting at a US Navy base at Pensacola, Florida, on Friday by a Saudi air force officer could complicate US-Saudi military relations, although Esper on Friday said that relations remain strong.
Esper last week denied news reports that he was considering sending up to 14,000 more troops to the Middle East, but he acknowledged to reporters that he is worried by instability in Iraq and Iran.
In his speech on Saturday, Esper made only a passing reference to Iran, citing Tehran’s “efforts to destabilize” the region.
He focused instead on shifting the US military’s focus toward China and Russia — “today’s revisionist powers.”
Esper accused Moscow and Beijing of seeking “veto power” over the economic and security decisions of smaller nations.
On Friday, Esper said he realizes that it would be difficult to move resources out of the Middle East to increase the focus on China and Russia.
He said he has been studying the force and resource requirements for every area of the globe to determine how to rebalance those resources.
“My ambition is and remains to look at how do we pull resources — resources being troops and equipment and you name it” — from some regions and either return them to the US or shift them to the Asia-Pacific region, he said.
“That remains my ambition, but I have to deal with the world I have, and so I gotta make sure at the same time I deter conflict — in this case in the Middle East,” he said. “I want to have sufficient forces there to make sure” the US does not get into an armed conflict with Iran.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory