New US military strategy and Turkey

New US military strategy and Turkey

As the details of the new U.S. defense budget for 2013 become clear, the outline of the new American military strategy becomes clear, too.

The fact that the number of active soldiers of the Army is planned to be reduced to 490,000 from 570,000, mostly from armored and heavy infantry troops, and despite the fact that President Barack Obama – who wants to keep his promises to American voters – is planning a gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan following withdrawal from Iraq, it his hard to call this shift a scaling down operation.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already underlined that not showing GI Joe presence in remote lands shouldn’t be misunderstood as leaving the stage available to other actors. U.S. aircraft carrier fleets would continue to patrol all over the world seas with their sea and air space capabilities, and an increased capacity of Special Forces and unmanned weaponry would turn them into floating gendarmerie garrisons. A 10 percent increase in the Special Forces units from 63,650 to 70,000 planned for the next four years and a 30 percent increase in the armed unmanned aerial vehicles are indications of that policy.

A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story on Friday (“More Drones, Fewer Troops”) quoted a U.S. official who summarized this new strategy as smaller but smarter. It seems that the White House does not want to send GI Joes to foreign lands in mass and receive them in coffins any more but instead prepare hit-and-run type combined warfare units from their sea bases and leave the troop intensive fight to the GI Joes of those foreign lands.

But the WSJ story also said that in some critical parts of the world – critical to the U.S. interests – the Pentagon considers establishing land bases for special units.

The Darwin base in Australia was named among the bases to be used in the Pacific area control. The expansion of the Philippines base was another consideration. And the WSJ reported that the Pentagon was looking into ways to establish bases near the Iraqi border area of Jordan and Turkey.
It is not clear from the WSJ story whether the U.S. official meant an additional use of the İncirlik Air Force Base of Turkey which is in NATO use, also hosting U.S. troops, or an additional base in the country that is not very likely considering the huge dimension of the İncirlik Base and the already high anti-American social climate in the country.

The Hürriyet Daily News contacted to Turkish and American sources on Friday to get more details. One Turkish Foreign Ministry official said there was no contact between Turkey and the U.S. on such an issue, and an official of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said they were not aware of such a project.

Later on Pentagon officials denied there were plans to escalate presence in Turkey. Yet there are still a number of issues around Turkey, from energy routes to the consequences of the Arab Spring, including Iran-Israel tension, the sectarian civil war risk in Iraq and the Kurdish problem in a lesser scale.
The Turkish proverb goes, “There is no smoke without fire,” and Turks are likely to assess the developments through a different lens from now on.