America’s new strategic guidance

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announces the new defense strategy. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett By James Hackett, Editor of The Military Balance and Douglas Barrie, Senior Fellow for Military Aerospace

It is a nervous time for the US military and defence-aerospace industry. The US’ new strategic guidance document released last week, entitled ‘Sustaining US leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense’, set out plans to resize US forces for smaller-scale operations. The extent of cuts will not be clear until the president’s budget submission at the end of January but the guidance provides us with an insight into the strategic context within which these decisions will be made.

With the Pentagon planning for over $450bn in cuts over the next ten years, it was widely expected that the review of defence priorities would reflect ‘a moment of transition’ for the US military. Beyond the need to meet the savings noted in the Budget Control Act, the end of the US military presence in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan, the death of Osama Bin Laden and continuing actions against al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been major drivers in the rethink of strategic priorities.

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Nigeria’s emergency response to growing violence

Nigerian soldiers. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication (By Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson (RELEASED)By Virginia Comolli, Research Analyst

On Christmas Day bomb attacks on two churches in the centre of Nigeria and towns in the northern state of Yobe killed 42 people and wounded several more. The group which claimed responsibility was Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic sect which has terrorised the country with attacks and killings since the early 2000s with the supposed goal of establishing sharia law.

Since 2009 Nigeria has witnessed an overall steep increase in Islamist violence that has spread from the northern states and threatened the capital Abuja and other areas in the country’s central region, known as the Middle Belt. Boko Haram has become the most high profile of these Islamist groups- causing over 450 casualties in 2011.

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How serious are Iran’s threats?

USS Scout in the Strait of Hormuz; US DoD photoIISS’s Michael Elleman has just been interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman at, who writes that: ‘Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington in the strategic Strait of Hormuz following increased sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran test-fired missiles and has threatened to close the strait.  This is to signal to the United States and its neighbors in the region that Iran has a deterrent capacity, says Michael Elleman, a leading expert on Iran’s missile development. The threats are also aimed at bolstering leadership domestically, he adds. Elleman says while there has been no evidence since 2003 of Iran developing a nuclear weapons program:  ‘Iran certainly is making tremendous headway in developing a range of ballistic missiles that could threaten the cities throughout the Gulf and in Israel.”

Read the full interview at the Council on Foreign Relations


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