President Biden clarified this week in a CBS interview that US forces would be assembled to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, a proclamation that has made waves in the global political arena. While decades of U.S. policy toward Taiwan have largely maintained the “strategic ambiguity” described in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, this summer has seen a profound shift in U.S. posture toward the China.
This should come as no major surprise, as the Biden administration has repeatedly taken steps to address the growing threat of Chinese aggression in the Pacific and abroad – including notably expanding partnerships. strategies, increased foreign military sales to the region, and toughened rhetoric, which includes the unprecedented visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Taipei during her Pacific tours.
But if US policy now rests on a commitment to defend Taiwan against an “unprecedented attack”, then the best course of action right now is to enhance the assistance activities of the military security forces (SFA). ASF — also called “security cooperation” according to the lexicon of defense — is a partnership/sponsorship between two nations whose security interests coincide, where the stronger power provides equipment, training and initial operational capabilities to the weaker partner.
SFA/SC is most often and incorrectly understood to consist primarily of foreign military sales. While equipment sales are an essential and necessary – and most expensive – element of security cooperation, enabling operational capabilities requires U.S. service personnel to assist in the implementation, training and the maintenance of this equipment to share the burden of collective security and ensure mutual security. Goals. This requires units capable of training partners in the use of equipment, operations and autonomy.
The most notable and recent example of SFA operations is the US Air Force mission to allow Afghan Air Force pilots to fly their own air power missions with A -29 and MD-530 exchanged by the United States to fight the Taliban. The train/advise/assist mission, it should be noted, was one of the only positive results of the SIGAR report on the Afghanistan campaign. Similarly, the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) proved “the Army right” by using its SFA capability to assist overstretched Brigade Combat Teams across the force.
Certainly, these programs have benefited from access to Emergency Operations Abroad (OCO) funds, a seemingly bottomless pit of money allocated to the equally limitless War on Terror, both of which now exist in as pieces of American political history and are no longer active slices of defense. priorities. But the fact that the programs have proven successful in their missions to enable partner forces to subsume U.S. security obligations at scale demonstrates the potential of the SFA as an extension of foreign policy and posture. United States strategy.
Taiwan therefore, and this new and unequivocal policy, represents the next opportunity for US military forces to expand US security and diplomatic interests in what is arguably the key region of strategic competition. As the criticality of the SFA and security cooperation increases daily, the MoD has taken inexplicable steps to divest itself of this capability, both in terms of functional decentralization and resource allocation. , ending funding for SFA programs in Africa once authorized under Title 10 and 22 authorizations.
Congress has an opportunity to reinvigorate the SFA on a large scale to fully build deterrence capabilities targeting Beijing in both Taiwan and Africa. They have a clear vectorization of the principle under Article 2 of the Constitution giving these rights and powers to the Executive Office. But the muscle over the bone to execute deterrence rests with Congress under Section 1. This is a tremendous opportunity to overcome a growing capability gap and engage decisively to curb Chinese ambitions. in the Pacific.
The timing is fortuitous and timely that President Biden should pivot US policy with Taiwan as the defense firm simultaneously expands its SFA obligations while being listless in its future strategy and resources for the broader program. This issue is currently being discussed at senior levels of Air Force leadership, according to a senior source I recently interviewed as part of an ongoing investigation into this matter. The army has institutionalized the SFA as a brigade but lacks strategic guidance. The Navy – arguably the most important player in US-Pacific interests – has a nascent SFA capability, but little initiative or guidance for maritime applications.
Taiwan has just become the center of US security cooperation interests, and Congress and the Department of Defense are at a critical juncture to respond to whether the US is serious about dissuading Beijing from upsetting the security status quo. security in the Pacific.
Ethan Brown is an 11-year veteran of the United States Air Force as a Joint Terminal Attack Special Operations Controller. He is currently a Senior Researcher for Defense Studies at the Center for Presidential and Congressional Studies, a contributor to the Diplomatic Courier, and has written for the Modern War Institute (West Point) and RealClearDefense. He can be found on Twitter @LibertyStoic.
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