Situation Report: New watchdog for Op Inherent Resolve; France counts Middle East cash; State Dept. front office makes moves; and more
By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson Watching the detectives. Late last year the Department of Defense (DoD) quietly announced a new inspector general’s (IG) office tasked with oversight of Operation Inherent Resolve, the perfect Pentagon name for the U.S.-led bombing and train and equip program in Iraq and Syria. And late Thursday night the new ...
By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson
By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson
Watching the detectives. Late last year the Department of Defense (DoD) quietly announced a new inspector general’s (IG) office tasked with oversight of Operation Inherent Resolve, the perfect Pentagon name for the U.S.-led bombing and train and equip program in Iraq and Syria. And late Thursday night the new IG shop just as quietly put out its first report and mission statement.
The 93-page doc mostly provides background on the mission while outlining the 16 different investigations it plans to undertake in the coming months, covering everything from contractor performance at a training site in Jordan, to the vetting of potential Syrian fighters. Mostly, we’re reminded that the whole thing isn’t cheap. The DoD and State Department have already received a $5.6 billion in supplemental budgetary money for the program in 2015, which includes $5 billion for DoD and $520 million for State and USAID.
And for 2016, the White House has requested $8.8 billion in supplemental funding: $5.3 billion for DoD and $3.5 billion for State.
We’re also reminded that $688 million of that cash is earmarked for “classified” efforts — mostly for the U.S. Air Force, for things like “procurement” and “research, development, test, and evaluation.” So there’s that.
In a change from previous IG shops, however, there are actually three watchdog groups rolled into one, with DoD, State, and USAID joining forces. In February, the DoD IG established a field office at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait and has set up other offices at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. State and USAID are working from Germany.
Related: FP’s John Hudson gets the details on the major realignment happening in Secretary of State John Kerry’s leadership team. These are the folks minding the office while the boss jets around the world, trying to put out fires.
Use the buddy system. It’s not quite the Tanker War of the mid-1980s, but it is pretty significant nonetheless. Defense Department officials said Thursday that U.S. Navy warships would begin escorting American-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz. The move comes just days after Iranian vessels forced the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris into Iranian waters — where it still holds the ship and 24 crew — and harassed an American-flagged cargo ship sailing in the area.
A Defense official told Situation Report that the guided missile destroyer USS Farragut, accompanied by the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based patrol boats USS Thunderbolt, USS Typhoon, and USS Firebolt will begin accompanying U.S.-flagged shipping through the Strait. While those ships — which have been keeping an eye on the Maersk Tigris — would take lead on the mission at the outset, other vessels from the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, which entered the 5th Fleet in early April and already faced down Iranian warships off the coast of Yemen, will help out. Those ships include the minesweeper USS Devastator, the destroyers USS Milius, USS Winston S. Churchill and USS Paul Hamilton, and the cruiser USS Normandy.
Once again, that which once seemed impossible has happened, and we’ve made it to Friday. But that doesn’t mean we’re done, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t send us any interesting tidbits that you’ve been storing away. As ever, hit us up at email@example.com, or on Twitter: @paulmcleary.
The Business of Defense
France is making a big play in the Middle East weapons market, with Qatar being the latest regime to buy billions worth of French gear. It was announced Thursday that Qatar will sign contracts for 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets and MBDA missiles. Defense News’ Pierre Tran reports that the deal, “which includes the missiles, training for 36 pilots and some 100 mechanics, is worth €6.3 billion ($7.1 billion).”
Earlier this month, Lebanon began receiving the first of what will eventually be $3 billion in French weapons and military equipment, helpfully funded by the Saudis.
Al-Shabab has been battered and bloodied by the U.S. drone strikes on its leadership and fights with Kenyan, Ethiopian, and African Union ground forces in recent years, but they remain a potent enough force to carry out spectacular attacks, writes Alex Dick-Godfrey of the Council on Foreign Relations. The group “is now more decentralized and has a larger geographic focus,” than it had in the past, he says. “Given regional dynamics, an inept Kenyan security response, refugee flows from Yemen, and a diminished United States presence, this new embodiment of al-Shabab is becoming increasingly difficult to counter.”
The BBC reported that Kenya “ignored Garissa university raid intelligence.” The head of security also “admitted that the response was poorly co-ordinated.”
Not a good deal? “Nearly half of Japanese oppose new joint defense guidelines with U.S.,” according to the Japan Times. A majority do, however, support U.S.-Japan cooperation in the Senkaku Islands.
“Britain has informed a United Nations sanctions panel of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, according to a confidential report by the panel seen by Reuters.”
U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Thursday warned that recent congressional plans for a piecemeal modernization of 11 cruisers would cost billions of dollars more than the Navy’s original plan and would mean that the ships would have to be retired earlier, reports Reuters’s Andrea Shalal.
Agence France-Presse writes that a U.N. report confirms Iran has been sending weapons to Houthi rebels for at least five years. Sandra Laville for The Guardian writes that French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic stand accused of sexually abusing children as young as nine. Anders Kompass, the senior U.N. official who leaked the report, faces dismissal according to the story.
And Nordic country Number Three is boosting its defense spending: Norway is boosting its budget by $500 million, according to Gerard O’Dwyer for Defense News. The decision is “in direct response to Russia’s growing military strength.”
The AP’s Bradley Klapper and Ken Dilanian tell us that U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of NATO forces in Europe, told Congress that the U.S. needs improved intelligence capabilities “to better understand President Vladimir Putin’s intent in the region.”
Israel has reportedly accused its Arab neighbors of “stalling on a nuclear-free Middle East.” According to Haaretz, Israel said in an official statement, “if a serious regional effort has not emerged in the Middle East during the last five years, it is not because of Israel.”
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