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Pentagon to send more troops, warplanes, bolster Indo-Pacific bases to counter China

U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Australian Royal Air Force troops during Exercise Mobility Guardian 2019 at Yakima Training Center, Wash., Sept. 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kiaundra Miller)
November 30, 2021

The Pentagon is planning to reinforce U.S. bases in Guam, Australia and the Northern Mariana Islands in order to better deter military threats from China.

During a Monday press briefing at the Pentagon, Dr. Mara Karlin — who is performing the duties of deputy undersecretary for policy — said the U.S. will reinforce infrastructure, rotate large numbers of aircraft and other weapons systems, and expand partnerships with allies in the Pacific.

Karlin said these new moves to bolster the U.S. military presence in the region come on the heels of the Pentagon’s latest Global Posture Review (GPR), which assesses the U.S. military posture around the world. The specifics of the GPR are classified, but Karlin provided some hints as to the review’s contents; particularly about how the U.S. will continue to shift its military focus toward countering the “pacing challenge” posed by China.

“Consistent with the Secretary’s focus on China as our pacing challenge, the priority region for the Global Posture Review was the Indo Pacific,” Karlin said. “The Global Posture Review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea.”

Karlin explained that the additional measures to deter aggression from China will include “enhancing infrastructure in Australia and the Pacific Islands, and planning rotational aircraft deployments in Australia.” Karlin explained that the infrastructure improvements the U.S. is seeking include things like expanded fuel and munitions storage and upgrades to airfields.

Karlin also said, “You’ll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation” in Australia.

Karlin also said there would be permanently stationing a previously rotational Attack Helicopter Squadron and Artillery Division Headquarters in South Korea. The decision puts those now permanent attack helicopters and artillery systems in a position to counter North Korean aggression.

A defense official told CNN the latest Global Posture Review further frees up U.S. military resources for the Indo-Pacific region by “reducing” the number of U.S. troops and equipment in other areas of the world. The review states these moves are “to enable improved warfighting readiness and increased activities” in the Indo-Pacific.

Karlin did not provide many specifics as to how U.S. military resources from other parts of the world would be refocused in the Indo-Pacific region going forward. At one point, when she was asked if the recent U.S. departure from Afghanistan had specifically freed up resources to put towards the Indo-Pacific region, Karlin said, “We’re still doing analysis looking at it.  The — as I briefly mentioned, the Global Posture Review, is prescribing some further analysis, both on the Middle East and Africa. And I think that the Afghanistan withdrawal is an important piece of that.”

In addition to the GPR’s focus on the Indo-Pacific, Karlin also said the review also “strengthens the combat credible deterrence against Russian aggression in Europe and enables NATO forces to operate more effectively.”

Karlin did not provide many specifics about how the U.S. is strengthening its posture against Russia, but did not the U.S. had called off plans to withdraw about 25,000 troops from Germany and actually increase the U.S. troop presence in the country further.

The defense official who spoke with CNN said the U.S. is seeking to “re-establish readiness” in Eastern Europe “with the goal of strengthening a combat credible deterrent vis a vis Russia and the specific requirements of that region.” The defense official did not elaborate further on the matter, when pressed for comment by CNN.