The Pentagon is using a little-known fund to boost counterterrorism operations throughout the Middle East

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Source: Al Monitor

 

The Donald Trump administration is giving hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons to US allies in the Middle East to fight the Islamic State (IS) as the militant group fans out toward Africa from its former safe havens in Iraq and Syria.

Using a little-known US legal authority established by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon is doling out substantial arms packages to build up Jordan’s and Lebanon’s air forces to take on terrorists from the air.

The Defense Department is also equipping special forces units in North African nations such as Morocco and Tunisia that face the threat of IS fighters returning to the region.

The money is part of a $600 million global increase in Pentagon security assistance since Trump took office, according to congressional records reviewed by Al-Monitor.

It’s not clear whether the infusion of Pentagon money into foreign militaries represents a policy shift from the Barack Obama administration, which sought to build up local forces, so that the United States can begin to reduce its footprint on the front lines of the terror fight. The new infusion of money into the Pentagon comes as Trump’s proposed budget threatens nearly $600 million in cuts to the State Department’s foreign military financing program, zeroing out requests for Lebanon and Tunisia, which lawmakers have sought to restore.

“This is a continuation of US policy since [the Sept. 11 attacks] to provide funds for building partner capacity,” said Seth Binder, the program manager for the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor. “It’s easier to get these funds to partners through [the Defense Department] instead of State.”

The Pentagon money, authorized under Section 333 of the 2016 US defense budget, appears to be used for similar purposes as foreign military financing.

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