The Trump administration has given the Pentagon $600 million more to arm and aid allies in the Middle East and North Africa in their battle against the remnants of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) following its defeat in Iraq and Syria, Al-Monitor reports.
The Defense Department is giving arms packages and assisting special forces units to better equip countries to battle the domestic and external threat of homegrown or returning jihadis who sympathize with ISIS’s ideology, according to congressional records seen by Al-Monitor.
The global increase in security assistance that the Pentagon gives to foreign militaries is consistent with President Donald Trump’s stated war on “radical Islamic terror.”
The president has stepped up drone and airstrikes in non-designated combat zones such as Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan in a bid to beat back Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS in their respective pockets of control in those countries.
The Department of Defense, according to the records, is helping countries such as Morocco and Tunisia combat returning jihadis who move across North Africa via the lawless country of Libya, wracked by civil war since the ousting of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The money could help the countries deal with border issues that allow jihadis to enter with relative ease.
Tunisia has suffered several high-profile ISIS-inspired attacks including the Sousse beach massacre and the Bardo museum attack. Both assaults killed dozens of tourists.
Deliveries approved in October also included a $120 million boost for Lebanon’s air power, including US-made light attack helicopters and high-performance drones, as well as supplying Tunisia with body armor and helicopters and outfitting a special forces unit in Morocco.
The United States also plans to beef up special forces in North Africa as IS migrates away from the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. Using the train-and-equip fund, Tunisia will receive $13 million in body armor and outmoded choppers, while the Pentagon will also outfit a special forces unit in Morocco with more than $18 million in trucks, pistols, rifles and training from US forces to deal with the emerging threat, Al-Monitor said.
The U.S.-led coalition, backed by ground forces, ousted ISIS from its two largest cities, Raqqa and Mosul, last year. The group has returned to insurgency-like tactics, conducting suicide bomb attacks against religious minorities such as the Sufi Muslims of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula or the Shiites of Afghanistan.