A drastic decision

Friday, 2017-03-03 10:50:17
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US President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, US February 24, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO—The Pentagon has delivered a draft plan to defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) to the White House. Accordingly, US military officials made strategic adjustments, calling for more drastic action in the war against terrorism, as the plan provided a framework for a broader plan and looked at the IS around the world, not just in Iraq and Syria.

Right after he was officially inaugurated as US President, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the US military to develop a preliminary plan within 30 days to defeat the IS. That the document required a comprehensive strategy to defeat the IS is a sign that the US will send more troops and military equipment to Iraq and Syria, which have been at the forefront of the US-led air campaigns against the IS. US Secretary of Defence James Mattis was tasked with recommending any necessary changes to any US rules of engagement and other US policy restrictions that exceed the boundaries of international law regarding the use of force against the IS; with identifying new coalition partners in the fight against the IS; and with operating mechanisms to cut off or seize the IS’s financial support.

The draft plan aimed to realise a key commitment made by President Trump in his presidential campaign, in which he criticised his predecessor’s administration’s slow pace in the anti-IS war. President Trump also announced that defeating “radical Islamic terror groups” was among the US’s top foreign policy goals. Therefore, the adjustment of President Donald Trump administration’s strategy could lead to relaxing some of the former Obama administration’s policy restrictions, opening up the possibility that the US may increase the number of its ground troops in Syria and Iraq.

Observers said that the review of US strategy comes at a decisive moment in the US-led coalition’s efforts against the IS in both Iraq and Syria. Plans on both military, financial and diplomatic questions have been developed to increase the US’s participation in the anti-terrorism war not only in the two Middle East countries but also all over the world. However, scepticism still remains as to whether the US will continue to support the Kurds in Syria, since the US’s key partner in the fight against the IS is a thorn in the side of Turkey.

One of the most controversial policy adjustments of the newly elected US President has been his instruction to sharply increase defence spending. He once announced a massive budget request for one of the “greatest military build-ups in American history” to upgrade the US military in terms of both its offensive and its defensive capabilities. However, his proposed rise in the Pentagon’s budget to US$603 billion has received mixed reactions from both Republicans and Democrats.

While Democratic lawmakers have said that the additional military spending would cripple important domestic programmes, such as environmental protection and education, the Republicans in Congress said it was not enough to confront existing and potential threats to the national security. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that the defence budget increase would still leave the US military underfunded, undersized and unready to safeguard national security. But according to the White House Office of Management and the Budget, the plan would bring the Pentagon’s budget to US$603 billion in total, just 3% more than the US$584 billion the agency spent in the most recent fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 2016.

In order to boost Pentagon funding, the plan calls for cuts to agencies including the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other non-defence sectors. That the State Department could see spending cut by as much as 30% provoked immediate opposition from many congressmen, who have claimed that diplomacy also plays an important role in addressing international hot spots in the war against terrorism.

President Trump’s plan to increase military spending is predicted to be approved by the US Congress uneasily. Despite the controversy, the resolute determination of the new administration to protect the US in the face of huge challenges in the anti-terrorism war is undeniable. The increasing military spending and strategic adjustments for deeper engagement in “hot spots of conflict” are forecast to bring about changes in the security situation in many region, particularly the “frying pan” of the Middle East.