WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter is reviewing a proposal to develop military “hubs” in key locations around the world to fight ISIS affiliates and other terrorist groups, according to a senior Pentagon official.
The proposal calls for both Special Operations and conventional troops to potentially be placed at still-to-be-determined locations closer to where the U.S. believes the threat exists. It was first reported by The New York Times.
“It takes, as is frequently noted, a network to fight a network. This is going to be our network for fighting ISIL on a regional and, indeed, a global basis,” Carter said Thursday, using a different term for ISIS.
“That’s the reality — the recognition of that (is) behind the concept of linking together American counterterrorism and military nodes in the region and around the world so that they operate more smoothly together, so that they can focus on this network wherever it is,” he continued.
The Pentagon official said locations could include southern Europe, in order to be close to Libya, as well as the Middle East. Sites where the military operates in Afghanistan and Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, are two other locations for such an effort the official said. It’s far from a new idea. The Pentagon keeps small numbers of troops rotating through various African sites, for example, including the Central African Republic, Uganda, Nigeria and Niger. These are often used for small staging areas for operations such as aerial reconnaissance by drones.
The rise of ISIS in Libya, however, is a growing concern for the Pentagon.
“We’re going to have to do more in Libya. ISIL is becoming a magnet for groups that previously existed in some cases and that are now re-branding themselves as ISIL,” Carter said Wednesday. “But it’s worse than that because … they’re also gaining energy from the movement in Iraq and Syria, which is why we need to destroy it in Iraq and Syria.”
Carter first spelled out much of the effort in an October speech in Washington, saying the Pentagon was “building the structure of a new, trans-regional strategy for countering terrorism over the long term,” one “based on infrastructure we’ve already established” in Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Africa and Southern Europe.
“Because we cannot predict the future, these regional nodes — from Morón, Spain, to Jalalabad, Afghanistan — will provide forward presence to respond to a range of crises, terrorist and other kinds,” he continued.
He described the nodes as allowing for “unilateral crisis response, counter-terror operations or strikes on high-value targets.”
But he said that, crucially, they would also enable U.S. allies to be in a position to quickly respond to threats as well by placing equipment and resources nearby.
He also said that they would “provide important opportunities to innovate, to develop new command-and-control structure, new ways to manage the force, new capabilities and new operational concepts.”