- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
- Tea Party Patriots call key GOP firing a declaration of war
- 68,000 more file for unemployment — in one week
- Michigan bans in-state insurers from covering abortion
- Nancy Pelosi tells Democrats to pass budget: ‘Embrace the suck’
Military chief pauses from Asia ‘pivot,’ says U.S. hopes to have positive influence in Mideast
Question of the Day
SEOUL — The top U.S. military officer took time Tuesday from an official visit aimed at allaying regional concerns about the U.S. commitment to Asia in order to discuss ideas Pentagon officials are mulling for assisting armed forces in Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, and training moderate opposition forces in Syria.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted Arab world hot spots where violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has been escalating, such as Lebanon and Iraq, and countries such as Jordan and Turkey, which have taken occasional fire from Syria’s civil war while bearing the brunt of a humanitarian crisis by housing and caring for the conflict’s refugees. Instability abounds in the wake of the Arab Spring protests, and the al Qaeda terrorist network has a resurgent presence in the region.
“We’re looking, militarily now — and I’m speaking only as the representative of the United States armed forces — but we’re looking at how we can assist the Lebanese armed forces, the Jordanians in particular, our NATO allies in Turkey, and even the Iraqis,” Gen. Dempsey said Tuesday during a media roundtable.
“We’re trying to apply economic factors, assistance of other kinds so that, as this thing continues to develop, we will have some influence in a positive way in the outcome,” Gen. Dempsey said of crises in the Middle East. “It is a conflict that stretches from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad.”
In addition, the general said, the Pentagon is considering working with Arab and European allies to train moderate Syrian military and police forces. U.S. troops are helping transport weapons to rebels locked in a 2-year-old civil war against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“We’ve got incredible experience at building partners and building military and police formations. So we’ve been in discussions about whether we can find a way to collaborate on that issue — the issue of developing a moderate opposition, in particular to stabilize some of the humanitarian issues in northern Jordan and southern Turkey,” he said.
Gen. Dempsey made the comments, in response to a reporter’s question during a weeklong trip with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to South Korea that was designed to reassure regional allies that the Obama administration’s so-called pivot to Asia is still a top priority despite budget woes at the Pentagon and ongoing strife in the Middle East.
The Asia Pacific — which includes North and South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan the Philippines and Australia — is ripe for instability on a large scale because of the region’s growing populations, economies and militaries amid various territorial disputes, historical grievances and political turmoil.
Two key regional issues are China’s expansive maritime claims and North Korea’s provocations against the South and the U.S.
South Korea’s military will need to improve its missile defense and cybersecurity capabilities to defend against the North’s threats, Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, said Tuesday. He is to retire Wednesday and be succeeded by Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who will lead the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the country.
South Korea is scheduled to take over wartime control of its own forces, which would defend the country in the event of an attack by North Korea, by the end of 2015. Mr. Hagel said this week that U.S. and South Korean officials are discussing an extension of the 2015 deadline, but no decision is expected soon.
Gen. Dempsey said the Pentagon will fulfill its commitment to South Korea, as well as find a way to pay for a response to Syria.
“Where our greatest national interests lie, we will find a way to find the resources to make the kind of commitments we need to make,” he told reporters Monday.
Training moderate Syrian police and military forces would be a “valid concept to be thinking about [especially after] the chemical weapons issue is reconciled” and Mr. Assad refuses to seek a political settlement to end the civil war, the Joint Chiefs chairman said Tuesday, referring to U.N.-led efforts to catalog, collect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. The training idea has not risen to the point of being a “plan,” he added.
Gen. Dempsey has warned of the costs and risks of committing U.S. forces to a boots-on-the-ground intervention in Syria. But in an Aug. 19 letter to Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he said that increased efforts to develop a moderate opposition represents the best framework for an effective strategy, though he did not specify how.
“The fact is that I’ve actually had some concerns about the outcomes and whether they would be achievable by the use of U.S. military force. I’ve offered other options. And those remain available to us,” Gen. Dempsey said Tuesday.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Kristina Wong is a national security reporter for The Washington Times, covering defense, foreign policy and intelligence affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pentagon welcomes budget deal but says more defense spending needed
- Rep. Hunter to Pentagon: Don't lower combat standards for women
- Scientists raise alarm over plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons at sea
- Hagel renews Qatar defense pact despite differences over Iran, Syria
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- MALCOLM/REIMER: Over-criminalization undermines respect for legal system
- Selfie at heart of Obama fiasco to stay secret
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- Fake interpreter at Mandela service: 'Sorry,' I have schizophrenia
- DIVEST! Oil is the new apartheid on college campuses
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Career Doctor Cassi Fields prescribes valuable advice for anyone looking to find a career, nail an interview or earn a promotion.
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
Film Reviews and Articles by Kevin Williams
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow