Overnight Defense: GOP digs in against Gitmo plan

THE TOPLINE: Republicans are digging in against President Obama's plan for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

GOP senators formally introduced a resolution of opposition Tuesday as a new intelligence report found the number of released prisoners returning to terrorism has increased.


Republicans, who were already staunchly opposed to the plan to close the military prison, used the new data to pile on their criticisms.

"As the latest Director of National Intelligence report confirms, the Obama administration's misguided effort to empty and then close Guantanamo is putting terrorists back on the battlefield and making Americans less safe," Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteOvernight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq Overnight Defense: New START extended for five years | Austin orders 'stand down' to tackle extremism | Panel recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal Study group recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-N.H.) said in a written statement. "Our troops should never have to confront a former Guantanamo detainee on the battlefield."

Of the 144 detainees released under Obama as of Jan. 15, a dozen, or 8.3 percent, are suspected of reengaging in terrorism or insurgency, according to the report. That's double the number six months ago.

Seven detainees (4.9 percent) released under Obama have been confirmed as rejoining the fight.

Read more here.


SENATORS CALL FOR NEW IRAN SANCTIONS: Senators slammed Iran's reported ballistic missile test on Tuesday, with Republicans and Democrats calling on the U.S. for swift action.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that both the United States and the United Nations must show the reported tests will have "swift and immediate consequences."

"The administration's hesitancy and the council's refusal to act after multiple violations last fall must not be repeated now that Iran appears ready to test the will of the international community with the nuclear agreement in place," he added.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCOVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama Senate GOP will force clerks to read bill to delay COVID-19 relief vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also urged swift action.

"The Administration should act swiftly to raise these concerns at the United Nations and take action to hold all parties involved responsible for their actions, including, if necessary, through unilateral action," he said in a statement Tuesday.

Iran on Tuesday test-fired ballistic missiles across its country, according to a state-backed television station. The reported launches come after the U.S. rolled out new sanctions in response to a ballistic missile test in October.

Read about the GOP response here.

Read about Cardin's response here.


PENTAGON WANTS TO RESTART TRAINING SYRIAN REBELS: The U.S. military has requested permission from the administration to restart a halted program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, the top commander in the Middle East said Tuesday.

"I've asked for permission to restart the effort by using a different approach," Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command (Centcom), told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing.  

The $500 million-a-year program meant to train a moderate force to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was effectively canceled in October after fielding only 150 rebels at a cost of $384 million -- far from its goal of 3,000 by December.

Austin said the new effort would focus on smaller numbers of people that the Pentagon could train on specific skills.

"And as we reintroduce those people back into the fight, they will be able to enable the larger groups that they're a part of," he said. "The training would be shorter. But again, I think they would be able to greatly enable the forces once they're reintroduced."

Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting CORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed support for restarting the program in order to field a force to hold Raqqa -- ISIS's stronghold in Syria.

"The reality, though, and you may check or dispute this, is that in order to hold ground there once we capture it, we need indigenous forces. Both -- not just Kurds, but Arabs, Syrians," he said.

Read more about the Pentagon's plan here.

To read about the problems plaguing the program, click here.



Gen. Joseph Votel will testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee at his nomination hearing to be commander of U.S. Central Command at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Dirksen G50.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Thomas's nomination to be commander of special operations will also be considered at the hearing.

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hear from outside experts on "Department of Defense Security Cooperation and Assistance Programs and Authorities" at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Russell 232A.

The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee holds a hearing on the Defense Health Program's 2017 budget request at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Dirksen 192.



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