US DoD increases deterrence posture in Middle East and continues aid to Israel


Joseph Clark, U.S. DoD, reports that security assistance continues to flow into Israel as Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III takes further steps to bolster deterrence in the region, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said on October 17.
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U.S. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a live-fire training exercise aboard dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, Persian Gulf, Sept. 19, 2023 (Picture source: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Rafael Brambila-Pelayo)


The U.S. Defense Department has completed five separate C-17 Globemaster III missions to deliver assistance, including munitions, to meet Israel's needs in the wake of the deadly attacks by Hamas terrorists, Singh said, adding that she expected subsequent deliveries to continue.

Going forward, Austin has directed the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to move into the region adding to the DoD's broader efforts to signal the U.S.' commitment to ensuring Israel's security and deter any state or non-state actor from seeking to escalate the war. "The department remains focused on three objectives: supporting Israel's defense through security assistance, sending a strong signal of deterrence to any actors who might be thinking of entering the conflict and staying vigilant to any threats to U.S. forces," Singh said.

The 26th MEU's movement in the region comes after Austin's directive over the weekend ordering the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group which arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean last week. "The 26th MEU is an adaptable military force composed of infantry, aviation and logistics components, all operating under one command," Singh said. "Positioned at sea, the 26th MEU is equipped to execute amphibious missions, respond to crises and engage in limited contingency operations across a spectrum of military scenarios."

Those units complement the deployment of Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighter squadrons and A-10 attack squadrons to the region announced last week.

Separately, Austin has placed approximately 2,000 personnel across a variety of units on a heightened state of readiness to increase the department's ability to respond in the Middle East. Those forces would add key capabilities ranging from transportation to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Singh emphasized, however, that no decisions have been reached to deploy any of those forces at this time: "This order only puts these units on higher alert," she said. "The Secretary will continue to assess our force posture and remain in close contact with allies and partners."

Since meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and members of the Israeli War Cabinet in Tel Aviv on Friday, Austin has remained fully engaged with the country's leaders as the U.S. works to ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself from further attacks. Singh said on Monday, October 16, that Austin has held calls with his Israeli counterpart on a near daily basis since the attacks by Hamas.

During his visit to Tel Aviv last week, Austin condemned the "bloodthirsty, fanatical and hateful" attacks by Hamas terrorists: "The world has just witnessed a great evil: the deadliest attack on civilians in the history of the state of Israel and the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the end of the Holocaust," Austin said after meeting with Israeli officials. "So, make no mistake: The United States will make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself". Austin said U.S. support to Israel remains "non-negotiable" and that additional security assistance would continue to "flow at the speed of war."

"For any country, for any group or anyone thinking about trying to take advantage of this atrocity to try to widen the conflict or to spill more blood, we have just one word: Don't," Austin said.


Defense News October 2023