Locklear: Bombing in Iraq and Syria Won't Slow Pacific Rebalance

Adm. Samuel Locklear

The head of U.S. Pacific Command said the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria isn't slowing down or impacting U.S. military operations in the Pacific theater or thwarting its momentum to continue a rebalance of equipment and forces to the region.

Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear told reporters Sept. 25 that -- while there may be requests from U.S. Central Command for small amounts of equipment such as surveillance planes -- military operations in the Pacific aren't likely to be changed much by the current attacks.

"From a military perspective, even as a campaign like ISIL is going on, our ability to remain forward and do the things we need to do in the Pacific will not be affected in any significant way," Locklear said, referring to another name for the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "The U.S. joint force, even in times of sequestration which we've been struggling through, is still a global force and is still capable of pursuing the re-balance in the ways we have articulated."

The U.S. military's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region involves plans to base as much as 60-percent of the Navy's fleet there, rotate U.S. Marines through Darwin, Australia, and move the new Littoral Combat Ships on deployments through Singapore, among other changes.

Locklear did acknowledge that the Islamic State has succeeded in recruiting as many as 1,000 fighters from the Asia- Pacific region, in part due to their effective use of social-media. In his speech Wednesday at the United Nations in New York, President Barack Obama said some 15,000 fighters from more than 80 nations -- including 100 Americans and about 2,000 Europeans -- have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the group or the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

Such a phenomenon means the U.S. military will need to address the current conflict with the terrorist groups from a global perspective, he added. The scope of potential Pacific Command involvement, however, isn't likely to be large and will depend upon the size and complexity of the conflict, Locklear explained.

"If we have 1,000 foreign fighters coming from here (Asia Pacific), then it is a global perspective. You will have to look at it in that direction rather than regionally. I don't think we are going to move massive amounts of forces from the Asia Pacific to be able to deal with a land campaign in Syria or Iraq against 30 or 40,000 very dangerous terrorists," he said.

There are a series of upcoming meetings in the Asia Pacific to include the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, East Asia Summit and G-20, Locklear added.

"It is not like the world has walked away because of the Middle East,  he said. "The Asia Pacific will remain important to the United States. Much of the future security interests for the United States will be tied to the Asia Pacific. Even with a threat like ISIL we cannot walk away from our responsibilities in the Asia Pacific."

-- Kris Osborn can be reached at kris.osborn@monster.com

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