In Letter To Esper, Kaine Calls For Briefing On Saudi Arabia Troop Increase
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper today, requesting a briefing to explain the expanded presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Last week, the Trump Administration sent a formal war powers notification to Congress stating that additional U.S. forces are being deployed to Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of servicemembers there to approximately 3,000. Kaine warned that he will file a resolution to force a debate on the troop increase if Congress does not receive an explanation from the 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.
For years, Kaine has been the leading voice in Congress raising concerns over Presidents’ efforts to expand the use of military force without congressional authorization. Kaine has also been outspoken against the Saudi regime’s continued human rights abuses and has called on Congress to serve as a check on the Trump Administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Full text of the letter is below and a PDF can be found here.
November 26, 2019
The Honorable Mark Esper
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC, 20301
Dear Secretary Esper:
I write to request a classified briefing on the Department of Defense’s mission and force posture in Saudi Arabia. The President’s letter to Congress dated November 19, submitted in accordance with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution, stated additional U.S. forces would be sent to Saudi Arabia “to improve defenses against air and missile threats in the region.”
Despite objections by Congress, this Administration has continued to export advanced military weapons and capabilities to Saudi Arabia stating it was necessary to “deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East.” 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, specifically the two fighter squadrons mentioned in the November 19 letter. Therefore, I request a classified briefing address the following:
- Assessment of equipment sold to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through foreign military sales and their ability to address “air and missile threats in the region.”
- Explanation of the command structure and mission of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia.
- Rationale for the additional two U.S. fighter squadrons, to include assessment of what air defense capability gaps exist with fighter aircraft operated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
- Detailed explanation and justification for any air-to-ground weapons that will be prepositioned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for potential carriage or employment by the two fighter squadrons referenced in the November 19 letter.
- Have there been any changes, or planned changes, to the November 2018 policy decision by the Department of Defense to halt refueling of Saudi Arabia aircraft conducting operations in Yemen?
- A listing and explanation of all special access and compartmented programs that involve the Department of Defense’s capabilities or personnel located, or planned to be located, in Saudi Arabia.