Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Officials Discuss India, Egypt, South Sudan

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2012 – The U.S. military relationship with India, support to a United Nations mission in South Sudan, and the Defense Department’s view of recent events in Egypt were among topics in a Pentagon media briefing today.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little and Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that language in the defense strategic guidance released last week recognizes India’s regional and global importance.

The section in the document discussing the U.S. emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region reads, in part, “The United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.”

Kirby said the United States has and hopes to sustain a strong relationship with the Indian military.

“They are contributing to issues in Afghanistan in a very constructive way, whether it’s training or economic assistance, and we certainly want to see that continue,” he said.

The U.S. government, he added, wants to continue to pursue a close relationship with India, Little said. “They’re a major economic power not only in the region but in the world, … and we respect [their] interests,” he added.

Turning to Egypt, Little responded to a reporter’s question about Defense Department communication with Egyptian officials following late-December raids by Egyptian forces on the offices of a reported 17 nongovernmental organizations, including human-rights and pro-democracy groups.

Little said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke to Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, commander in chief of the Egyptian armed forces, shortly after the Dec. 29 incidents. The press secretary said he is not aware of any further DOD contact with Egyptian officials on the issue.

“We continue to monitor the situation, and it's a very important one to get right,” Little said. “We hope that the Egyptians, of course, do the right thing. We understand that they have taken steps to improve the situation with respect to NGOs, and that's something of importance to the United States.”

Little also responded to questions on the five-person team of military officers who have been assigned to a U.N. mission in South Sudan.

A White House memorandum released yesterday indicated the officers would take part in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. South Sudan, a U.N. member state in northeastern Africa, achieved independence in July.

The press secretary said there are no plans to send any additional U.S. service members there.

“These U.S. military officers have been assigned to a U.N. mission in South Sudan,” he said. “They’re going to work in concert with international partners to … engage in peace operations in that new country.”

Kirby said the officers will assist with governance, rule of law issues and civil affairs as South Sudan begins to stand itself up.

“Right now, that’s the limit of involvement of these five individuals,” the spokesman added. “It may change over time; we contribute to U.N. missions in several other nations all over the world.”

Kirby emphasized the assignment is “not a combat mission whatsoever,” and is designed to meet U.S. commitments and responsibilities to the United Nations.

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