02-19-2017  1:16 pm      •     
French army Rafale jet on the tarmac of an undisclosed air base as part of France's Operation Chammal launched in September 2015 in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State group. France launched fresh airstrikes on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in Syria days after attacks in Paris linked to the group killed at least 129 people. French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the strikes destroyed a command post and training camp and come a day after President Francois Hollande vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the jihadists at home and abroad. (Sebastien Dupont/ECPAD via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is pressing European and Arab allies to provide more troops and support for the war against the Islamic State group, hoping that the horror of the Paris attacks — and the fear more are coming — will compel them to get more deeply involved.

An attack in Mali killed 27 last week immediately following on attacks in Paris and Beirut. Brussels declared a security lockdown Saturday as the Belgian national crisis centre announced a "severe and immediate threat".

The call for help is driven by a hope to build on what the Obama administration sees as the beginnings of battlefield momentum in Iraq and Syria. It may also reflect a sense in the Pentagon that the campaign against the Islamic State group has advanced too slowly and requires more urgent and decisive military moves.

VIDEO: Journalist held by Islamic State group says terror attacks aim to escalate war

U.S. officials say they detect more European interest in contributing to the military campaign in Syria, where many governments have stayed largely on the sidelines. But the officials acknowledge that it will be difficult to get more from budget-strapped countries already involved elsewhere in the world. Chances of drawing significant additional help from Arab nations seem even slimmer.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has made clear the basic U.S. strategy is not changing. But during an hourlong meeting with top advisers and commanders earlier this week, Carter said now is the time to reach out to European allies for support in the fight against the Islamic State group, according to a senior defense official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal Pentagon deliberations.

The official said Carter asked his top advisers - including Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Gen. Philip Breedlove, the top U.S. commander for NATO, and Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the lead commander in the Islamic State fight - to reach out to Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey for additional military support. The requests span a range of options from equipment and supplies to trainers and special operations forces.

Italy has provided Tornado fighter jets for reconnaissance missions, weapons for Kurdish fighters and training units in Iraq and has said it would consider playing a more active role in Iraq combating the Islamic State group, but that no decision has been made. Last month, Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said Italy isn't considering any role in Syria because Damascus hasn't asked for assistance.

"We are ready to help our French brothers, but neither they, nor the Americans nor we will make excursions in Syria," Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday on RAI state television.

French army Rafale jet on the tarmac of an undisclosed air base as part of France's Operation Chammal launched in September 2015 in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State group. France launched fresh airstrikes on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in Syria days after attacks in Paris linked to the group killed at least 129 people. French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the strikes destroyed a command post and training camp and come a day after President Francois Hollande vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the jihadists at home and abroad. (Sebastien Dupont/ECPAD via AP)

The U.S. push for broader support for military action in Syria and Iraq comes as France has intensified its aerial bombing in Syria and Russia has widened its air campaign in Syria after concluding that the Islamic State group was behind the bomb that brought down a Russian passenger jet in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, killing 224 people.

French President Francois Hollande is going to Washington and Moscow next week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS.

Carter told an interviewer on Monday that the Paris attacks have had a "galvanizing" effect on U.S. cooperation with France, including in the sharing of intelligence. He noted that the French responded with immediate airstrikes against IS targets and said the United States is looking for new ways to improve the effectiveness of its military campaign.

"We need others to get in the game as well," he told a forum sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. "So I'm hoping that this tragedy has the effect of galvanizing others as it has galvanized the French, and really throughout Europe. Because remember, Europe has been participating in part in operations against ISIL, but not, notably, most of them in Syria so far." Belgium, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands are flying missions in Iraq but not in Syria.

Derek Chollet, a senior adviser at the German Marshall Fund of the United States who previously served as assistant defense secretary for international security, said the Paris attacks may give other European nations the political will and public support they need.

"There is willingness for Europe to get more involved — but it's a political decision," said Chollet. "I think now that there's political space that's opening because of what happened last week, it makes sense for the U.S. to be perhaps asking some of these tougher questions to European partners about their involvement in places like Syria."

The problem, however, is that resources are tight.

"The challenge we all have is that it's not as though there is this capability that is waiting on the shelf somewhere, that it's just in reserve and if we just could access it would solve all of our problems," said Chollet. "We are bumping up against the limits — under current budgets and current sizes of militaries. You can't manufacture this instantly."

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "there hasn't been a great enthusiasm" for ground combat against the Islamic State group beyond the local forces already fighting in Iraq and Syria, including Kurds in both countries and an Arab rebel coalition in Syria.

"We would like to see particularly Sunni (Arab) nations ... contribute to a greater degree on the ground," he said, citing in particular the predominantly Sunni states in the Persian Gulf region, some of whom have flown combat missions over Iraq and Syria but are not engaged in ground combat.

"I think they would have the credibility and, frankly, come without some of the baggage of Western forces to be on the ground," Dunford told the same Wall Street Journal forum, speaking one day after Carter. "I think there's some possibility of doing that ... that's something we need to work on."

One senior U.S. official described the goal as "pie in the sky," acknowledging it will be difficult to get any of the Sunni nations to agree to send ground troops.

But others suggest that nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE could be tapped for more assistance, including special operations troops and trainers. And in some cases, those Arab nations could provide more help to the Syrian opposition forces by providing both military supplies and support as well and exercising political influence to get the groups better aligned.

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all