Defense Secy. Esper, German counterpart discuss fight against ISIS

U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper speaks during a press conference on the first day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)b

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UPDATED 1:55 PM PT — Friday, February 14, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with global officials in Germany this week to discuss progress in the fight against ISIS. During Friday’s press briefing in Munich, Esper said the U.S. is determined to defeat the terror group.

“We stand united with our partners and allies in the D-ISIS coalition,” he said. “Today in Munich, I reaffirmed our unwavering commitment to advancing global peace and security, and to the lasting defeat of ISIS.”

He also discussed the importance of the commitment made by 82 countries, who have joined the coalition in pursuit of taking down the caliphate.

The secretary emphasized that even though ISIS has been weakened, now is not the right time to let up.

“Looking ahead, it is imperative that we maintain unrelenting pressure on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, just as we help prepare the Iraqis to do so for the long term,” stated Esper. “Together we have achieved tremendous success against ISIS, destroying its physical caliphate and liberating millions from its barbaric rule.”

Esper’s comments came as global leaders met at the Munich Security Conference, where they are discussing containment of the coronavirus and tensions in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, shakes hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, as US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper watches during the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The 2020 edition of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place from Feb. 14 to 16. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool photo via AP)

Original Article

Esper: China’s Communist Party stealing technology, building surveillance state

Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a joint news conference with Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono at the Pentagon in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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UPDATED 3:27 PM PT — Friday, January 24, 2020

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said China and Russia are prioritized as America’s main security concerns. He is warning of China’s growing surveillance footprint, both within its own borders and around the world.

On Friday, Esper said both Russia and China are using emerging technology to reshape the world to their advantage. He specifically noted Beijing is combining state investment, forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.

The secretary claimed China is attempting to narrow the gap between itself and its rivals.

“The party has constructed a 21st century surveillance state with unprecedented abilities to censor speech and infringe on basic human rights,” he said. “George Orwell would be proud.”

He added China’s Communist Party uses this surveillance and artificial intelligence to routinely repress minorities and pro-democracy demonstrators.

China has defended its surveillance use as a means of preventing terrorism and separatism. They claimed they do not use it for religious or ethnic monitoring.

Original Article

Esper: Delay of Ukraine aid did not have ‘any impact on U.S. national security’

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on challenges to US national security

'Fox News Sunday' exclusive: Defense Secretary Mark Esper joins Chris Wallace for a wide-ranging interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was reluctant to discuss details behind the withholding and release of military aid to Ukraine, but he did reject the notion that the delay had any negative effect on national security.

Over the course of the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump, Democrats have been accusing the president of using the aid and a White House visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as leverage to get them to investigate his political opponents. Democrats claim that by putting political interests ahead of national interest, Trump put national security at risk. Esper was quick to deny such a claim.

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"At the end of the day, the bottom line is most of that aid got out on time and at no time did it have any impact on United States national security," Esper said.

Esper said there were three factors that were considered regarding the aid.

"When I came onto the scene, the three things we were looking at were this: one, was the aid necessary and vital to the Ukrainians in terms of defending against Russia; No. 2, had the Ukrainians addressed corruption, and that was a congressional concern; and No. 3, were other countries in the region, other allies and partners assisting them. And given those three things we decided to support the provision of Ukrainian aid."

Esper would not address whether there were any political factors involved in the delay of the aid's delivery, citing the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

"I'll leave that process unto itself," he said.

Esper also discussed a number of other issues related to national security. He addressed the shooting at the naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., where Americans were killed before the suspect, a Saudi Air Force officer, was shot and killed. The defense secretary would not definitively state whether the incident should be classified as terrorism.

"I don't know yet. I think that's why it's important to allow the investigation to proceed, to understand exactly what he was doing and why."

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Esper did say he called on officials to "begin review of what our screening procedures are with regard to foreign nationals coming into the United States." At the same time, he emphasized the need to maintain programs where foreign individuals come to train with U.S. forces.

"The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us in building those long-term relationships that keep us safer."

Esper also addressed how the U.S. was prepared to respond to potential "bad behavior" on the part of Iran.

"We've reached a point, I think, that we've deterred Iranian bad behavior," Esper said, pointing to an end in recent Iranian aggression that included attacks against ships in the Strait of Hormuz and shooting down of a U.S. drone.

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But when asked about Iran's latest military efforts, including shipping missiles to other countries in the region and the testing of a ballistic missile that has the capability of delivering a nuclear weapon, Esper said that the U.S. is ready to act, if need be.

"We are prepared to respond, depending on what Iran does," he said. "And they need to understand that our restraint should not be interpreted as weakness."

Original Article