Kaine threatens Senate intervention if no briefing given on Saudi Arabia troop increase

Kaine threatens Senate intervention if no briefing given on Saudi Arabia troop increase
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism MORE (D-Va.) on Tuesday threatened Senate intervention if Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week Top Pentagon official announces resignation, second within week Hillicon Valley: Pentagon pushes back on Amazon lawsuit | Lawmakers dismiss Chinese threat to US tech companies | YouTube unveils new anti-harassment policy | Agencies get annual IT grades MORE did not provide a briefing to explain the Pentagon’s decision to send an additional 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia.

In a letter to Esper, Kaine — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees — said that he would file a resolution to force a debate on the troop increase if Congress does not receive an explanation from the Trump administration.

“I write to request a classified briefing on the Department of Defense’s mission and force posture in Saudi Arabia. … Saudi Arabia has a robust air defense capability that includes nearly two-hundred advanced fighter aircraft as a result of the sale of U.S. equipment. It is unclear what defensive capability the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cannot address without additional U.S. forces,” Kaine wrote. 

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The White House last week sent a formal war powers notification to Congress, stating that additional U.S. forces and equipment had been deployed to Saudi Arabia “to protect United States interests and enhance force protection in the region against hostile action by Iran and its proxy forces.”

The extra forces include 200 troops and missile defense and radar equipment sent to the Gulf nation in September in response to attacks on Saudi oil facilities. More troops, missile defense equipment and aircraft were announced in October, bringing the total to 3,000 additional forces. 

The Pentagon said at the time that the equipment would “augment the kingdom's air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure.”

After the notification’s release, Kaine said that Congress “can’t sit back and let these latest troop deployments in the Middle East go unquestioned.”

Kaine asked that Esper provide an assessment of Saudi Arabia’s ability to address air and missile threats in the region and an explanation of the command structure and mission of U.S. forces in the country. In addition, Kaine wants justification for any air-to-ground weapons and the two fighter squadrons that will be placed in the nation.