The New York Times reports that top DoD military officials want the network of bases to serve “Special Operations troops and intelligence operatives who would conduct counterterrorism missions” against groups such as Islamic State, ensuring an “enduring” American military presence in several regions overseas.
The aim, according to the publication, is to quell the expansion of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and affiliated groups beyond Syria and Iraq. The proposed bases will be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against jihadists, as some local groups across world regions pledge their allegiance to IS tactics.
According to NYT sources in the Obama administration, the proposal for the new strategy to engage IS was presented by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey just before he left the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
US officials familiar with the matter who spoke with the paper, said the new paradigm has met with opposition from lawmakers who oppose the expansion of a US military presence overseas.
There are also others who have significant reservations about the plan.
“This can inadvertently create some cross border tensions between nations,” former CIA official Johnson told RT, adding that the Pentagon “failed to think through the diplomatic complexities” that are going to arise if such “anti-terror hubs” spread.
In late October Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke in favor of the proposal: “Because we cannot predict the future, these regional nodes – from Moron, Spain, to Jalalabad, Afghanistan – will provide forward presence to respond to a range of crises, terrorist and other kinds. These will enable unilateral crisis response, counter-terror operations, or strikes on high-value targets.”
If the White House gives the green light to the proposals, each of the operational hubs would include a US Special Forces contingent of 500 to 5,000 personnel, and could cost the taxpayers “several millions of dollars” annually, DoD officials told the publication. Any installation of these special units would require permission from the host country.
The proposal is still in its early stages but remains a topic of much discussion and came up this week during a White House meeting of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, officials told the New York Times.
Johnson doubts the new approach being discussed by top officials in Washington will be successful in defeating IS, branding it “absurd” and insisting it is likely to fail.
“The strategy that has been employed explosively on special operations forces over the last 12 years, in my view, is largely failed,” Johnson pointed out.
“Why do I say failed? If you look at the number of terrorists attacks, the number of terrorist casualties, the casualties inflicted by terrorist groups, as well as the number of countries in which these militant Sunni Islamist are operating – those numbers have gone up, they have not gone down. They have spread. So the notion that special forces offer some sort of magical solution for defeating this threat, I think, is frankly absurd.”