Overnight Defense: Obama deploying 250 more troops to Syria

THE TOPLINE: President Obama announced Monday that he'll send another 250 U.S. troops to Syria.

They'll join the 50 special operations troops previously sent to the country.

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"They're not going to be leading the fight on the ground, but they will be essential in providing the training and assisting the local forces that continue to drive ISIL back," the president said during a speech in Hannover, Germany, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Read more about Obama's announcement here.

The president and the Pentagon almost immediately began pushing back on criticism that the deployment amounts to mission creep.

The Pentagon told reporters that the troops fill specific capabilities needed right now, while Obama told CBS News that the troops won't be directly fighting ISIS.

Read more about the Pentagon's comments here, and Obama's interview with CBS here.

Lawmakers from both parties though were skeptical, seeing the move as further escalation of the U.S. effort against ISIS.

"Another reluctant step down the dangerous road of gradual escalation will not undo the damage in Syria to which this administration has borne passive witness," said Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.). Read the rest of his comments here.

Meanwhile, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) added: "Nearly every day, we see the U.S. mission in Iraq and Syria creep closer and closer toward all-out war, while Congress refuses to muster the courage to even debate it." Read the rest of her comments here.

 

FULL DEFENSE BILL UNVEILED: The House Armed Services Committee on Monday released the full version of its annual defense policy bill, filling in the final details before the committee meets later this week to mark up the bill.

In addition to previously released details on total spending, Guantanamo Bay, troop levels and other aspects, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would require a strategy for defense interests in Africa, try to force the Air Force to stop using Russian rocket engines and effectively ground a controversial blimp program.

"The NDAA makes a clear statement to friends and adversaries that the United States will have the means to defend itself, and it reassures the men and women who serve our nation that whatever they are asked to do, they will be prepared and supported fully," Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, said in a written statement.

The $610 billion, 758-page bill would fund base requirements at $574 billion. The base funding uses $23 billion from a war fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Read more about the bill here.

 

US FIGHTER JETS LAND IN ROMANIA: Two F-22s, stealthy U.S. fighter jets, arrived in Romania on Monday as a show of strength against Russia.

"Today, we rapidly deployed these aircraft, along with a KC-135 Stratotanker, here to showcase our flexible response and our range of capabilities," Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, 3rd Air Force commander, said in a press release. "These aircraft have the ability to project air dominance quickly, at great distances, to defeat any possible threat."

About 20 supporting airmen were sent to Romania along with the aircraft. Monday's deployment is the largest F-22 deployment in Europe to date, according to the release.

The jets landed at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, near the Black Sea port of Constanta in southeastern Romania.

Read the rest here.

 

ISIS IN LIBYA: Wikistrat is out with a new report, provided to The Hill, on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Libya.

The report, with input from 30 analysts, simulates the ways ISIS is positioning itself in Syria.

ISIS is taking advantage of the lack of central government, moving elsewhere after battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria and adopting a nationalist narrative since western attempts to stabilize Libya are increasingly seen negatively, according to the report.

But ISIS in Libya also faces obstacles, including lacking the capacity to provide administrative and social services and the inability to leverage broad-based sectarian grievances like those in Iraq and Syria, the report adds.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the F-35 joint strike fighter at 10 a.m. at Dirksen G50. http://1.usa.gov/23Ox4yd

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the State Department's budget request at 10 a.m. at Dirksen 419. http://1.usa.gov/26klvxI

Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence for Operation Inherent Resolve, briefs the media at 10 a.m. Watch live at defense.gov.

 

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: USAID worker hacked to death in Bangladesh

-- The Hill: ISIS has secret cells in Europe, US spy chief claims

-- The Hill: Lawmakers look to get tough on Russia

-- Military Times: The U.S. is pushing a new strategy to make the Iraqis man up against ISIS

-- Stars and Stripes: Afghan president talks tough as outrage builds over Kabul attack

 

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