Overnight Defense: Obama open to more troops in Syria; Defense bill ready for markup – The Hill

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THE TOPLINE: President Obama would consider sending more U.S. Special Operations forces to Syria in the future if the latest deployment proves to be successful, the White House said Tuesday. 

“If this additional commitment of additional troops yields positive results … then that’s something that the president would consider,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Earnest said there are no “geographical limitations” on where the U.S. could send troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS),opening the door to sending American troops to advise fighters battling the extremist group in Libya and other African nations where it has a presence.

The Hill’s Jordan Fabian has more

KEY DEM SLAMS DEFENSE BILL: The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee called committee Republicans’ approach to defense spending “problematic” ahead of the committee’s Wednesday markup of an annual defense bill and said he was undecided on his support for the bill.

“The approach to funding that has been adopted in the chairman’s mark is incredibly problematic,” Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithOvernight Defense: Obama open to more troops in Syria; Defense bill ready for markupKey Dem slams defense bill for ‘problematic’ fundingDem looks to allow Pentagon to close bases in defense billMORE (D-Wash.) said in a written statement Tuesday. 

“That said, the [National Defense Authorization Act] is a very important bill that provides funding for essential defense priorities including support for military families. I want to support this bill if it is what is best for our men and women in uniform. But I am dissatisfied with its approach to funding, and I am still undecided.”

The committee’s 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which was released in full Monday, would authorize $610 billion for defense spending.

That’s the same amount requested by the Obama administration and follows the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which set spending levels for 2016 and 2017.

But it uses $23 million for base requirements from a war fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The remaining $36 million in OCO would only be authorized until April 30, 2017, forcing the next president to either scale back war plans or request supplemental funding.

Smith likened that approach to funding as a “fiscal cliff.”

The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel has more here


Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is also planning to file an amendment to the fiscal 2017 defense policy bill that would allow the Pentagon to close excess military bases in the U.S. 

Read more here

FEWER FOREIGNERS JOINING ISIS: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters are suffering from low morale, and a dramatically decreased influx of foreign fighters, a top U.S. commander in Baghdad said Tuesday. 

“We’re seeing the morale of the enemy beginning to deteriorate at a fairly increasing rate,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the war coalition’s task force.  

Gersten said a year ago, there were between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters per month joining ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Now, he said, that number is down to about 200 per month.  

In addition, some of them are going to extreme measures to defect, including dressing as women, he said. 

Read more here

CLINTON, SANDERS BACK SYRIA DEPLOYMENT: Democratic presidential candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: Clinton ‘playing the woman card left and right’Fears grow about rising US troop levels in Middle EastBernie Sanders is the third-party candidate you’ve been waiting forMORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBernie Sanders is the third-party candidate you’ve been waiting forFears grow about rising US troop levels in Middle EastAcela primaries: Winners, losersMORE are both voicing support for President Obama’s decision to send 250 troops to Syria, a deepening of U.S. involvement in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Both candidates are seeking to highlight their ties to Obama.

Clinton has advocated a more hawkish foreign policy stance than Sanders. She has previously called for more air strikes and special operations forces to fight ISIS, as well as a no-fly zone in Syria. 

But Sanders, who has repeatedly criticized Clinton for supporting the Iraq War and being too quick to support regime change in Libya, also said he supported the deployment. 

Read more


The House Armed Services Committee begins its marathon markup of the National Defense Authorization Act, beginning 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2118. http://1.usa.gov/1Qzjge9

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford testify on the Pentagon’s 2017 budget request at the Senate Appropriations Committee — 10:30 a.m. at Dirksen 192. http://1.usa.gov/1NQQjKQ

Also, the House Homeland Security Committee hosts a hearing on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s presence in Southeast Asia at 10 a.m. at Cannon 311. http://1.usa.gov/1qRKojz

The American Enterprise Institute and the Army War College host a discussion on how the next administration can “balance national defense priorities and bitter partisan politics” at an event titled “Defense choices in 2017: Confusion among chaos.” The event is 10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. http://bit.ly/1SqPePm


— The Hill: House sends bill to Obama limiting ISIS profits from cultural destruction

— The Hill: Al Qaeda branch takes credit for killing of USAID worker

— The Hill: Ryan stresses stronger Saudi ties in reflecting on secret 28 pages

— Washington Examiner: Former Marine congressman wants looser rules for Afghan interpreters

— CNN: Pentagon adopts Israeli tactic in bombing ISIS

— Associated Press: Turkish official: U.S. deploying rocket launchers near Syria


Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com 

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@kristina_wong@Rebecca_H_K 

Overnight Defense: Obama open to more troops in Syria; Defense bill ready for markup – The Hill