Officials Discuss India, Egypt, South Sudan

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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