News Briefs – July 15, 2016

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Australia brings new amphibious forces to Hawaii exercises

Australian soldiers are expected to lead a battalion in the storming of a Hawaii beach during the world’s largest maritime exercises this month, displaying amphibious military skills they’ve been building in recent years.
For the first time, Australia’s navy has brought an amphibious assault ship to the 26-nation Rim of the Pacific drills.
The HMAS Canberra is capable of delivering more than 1,000 troops ashore with the help of helicopters and water craft.
The Australian army will lead a battalion ashore during a landing exercise.
Australia’s push to develop sea-to-land capability dates to 1999, when it led a U.N. force to restore peace in East Timor. Australia found it needed amphibious forces to be more effective, but didn’t have them. AP
 

Germany: Brexit a chance to improve EU military cooperation

Britain’s decision to quit the European Union offers the bloc an opportunity to press ahead with greater military cooperation of the kind that London has long resisted, Germany’s defense minister said July 13.
Ursula von der Leyen, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Germany and France plan to discuss deepening military ties with other members of the EU, saying such efforts would be easier following Britain’s referendum last month to leave.
“Britain consistently blocked everything that had Europe written on it,” von der Leyen told reporters at the presentation of a major defense policy paper in Berlin, citing the example of a mobile hospital some countries had wanted to deploy to crisis regions.
“European Medical Command, even that would have been impossible because (of the word) `European,’” she said.
Germany already operates joint military units with France and the Netherlands on a bilateral basis.
Von der Leyen said closer military ties between member states could help ease the frustration that many voters feel about the EU’s inability to tackle major issues.
In its first defense policy review since 2006, the government said citizens of other EU countries could be allowed to serve in the German army.
Von der Leyen rejected suggestions that Berlin was pushing its own military agenda. She stressed that Germany had learned the lessons of the 20th century and would only act as a part of an alliance of nations.
Greater security and military cooperation was possible under existing EU agreements, said von der Leyen. “The good news is we don’t need to change any treaties.”
Merkel has emphasized other priorities for closer EU cooperation, including promoting economic growth and border protection. AP
 

U.S. sends Marines to South Sudan capital to protect citizens

The U.S. military in Africa says it has sent 40 additional soldiers to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, to help secure American personnel and facilities in the war-torn city.
Amid a tense cease-fire which has held since July 11 night, the U.S. troops deployed at the request of the State Department, said Africom spokeswoman Cpt. Jennifer Dyrcz.
In five days of fighting in the capital President Salva Kiir’s forces ousted those loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar from one of their bases. The fighting left hundreds dead in the capital and aid workers said bodies remain in the streets.
The U.S. Embassy in Juba said it is organizing flights to evacuate non-essential staff and for all U.S. citizens wishing to leave South Sudan.
Commercial flights to Juba remain cancelled though charter flights are evacuating hundreds of aid workers and other foreign citizens from the capital.
The U.N. said 36,000 South Sudanese civilians have fled their homes due to the fighting, taking shelter in churches, U.N. bases and aid workers’ compounds.
“There is hardly any food in the market, and people are starving. As a result, they are turning to coping mechanisms like looting to survive,” said Jeremiah Young, policy adviser for World Vision. Many aid workers cannot get to desperate civilians because of the continued insecurity. There are reports of government soldiers blocking aid workers from moving to areas where civilians need assistance.
Relief workers should be given freedom of movement, said the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator South Sudan Eugene Owusu.
“`We urgently call on all concerned to guarantee safe and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations to ensure that we are able to reach all people in need, including in locations hardest-hit by the fighting,” he said. AP