U. S. forces’ dynamic 2023: From strengthening allies to attacks in Syria, Iraq 

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By Carina

American forces embarked on a dynamic year in 2023, conducting operations worldwide to reassure allies and combat international terrorism. 

The annual activities commenced with a significant military drill, Juniper Oak, in Israel. This bilateral exercise, led by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), marked the largest show of force in the history of their alliance.

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Enhancing US-Israel military partnership through joint exercise

CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla highlighted the drill’s significance as a “Combined Joint All-Domain exercise,” enhancing interoperability across various domains. 

With over 6,400 personnel from CENTCOM and more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers, the exercise showcased the strategic partnership between the United States and Israel. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the exercise’s role in advancing Israeli military power, underlining the commitment to mutual defense.

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US forces strengthen alliances beyond Israel 

Beyond Israel, U.S. forces engaged in joint military drills with South Korean partners and Japan, addressing threats from North Korea. 

Anti-submarine drills to counter North Korean threats showcased the commitment to regional security. 

As tensions escalated, Reuters reported additional drills with South Korea, integrating advanced technologies for modernizing the forces of both nations.

Travis King’s detainment triggers diplomatic concerns

However, 2023 saw more than just military exercises. An incident in July involved Army Pvt—Travis King’s detainment in North Korea, sparking immediate concerns among U.S. officials. 

King, initially bound for Fort Bliss, took an unexpected turn by entering North Korean territory. 

The diplomatic challenge unfolded as Army Secretary Christine Wormuth expressed worries about King’s safety, emphasizing the need to bring him back into U.S. custody.

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U.S. deploys troops in Response to Russia’s invasion

In response to Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. deployed thousands of soldiers to Europe in 2023. 

President Biden’s order for additional troops and authorization for more reservists demonstrated a commitment to deter Russian aggression and reassure allies. 

Former Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby clarified that U.S. troops in Europe would maintain a defensive posture and not engage in direct combat in Ukraine.

U.S. Middle East focus intensifies countering Iran’s aggression

U.S. military presence increased in the Middle East due to Iran’s aggressive behavior. The Navy’s deployment of over 3,000 sailors and Marines addressed Iran’s attempts to seize commercial ships. 

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The strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital seaway for global trade, necessitated bolstering U.S. forces. 

The U.S. commitment to battling terrorism remained evident in Iraq and Syria, with the Senate rejecting a bill to withdraw troops, emphasizing the ongoing threat from Iranian proxies.

Attacks on U.S. forces persist in Iraq and Syria 

As 2023 concluded, attacks on U.S. forces persisted in Iraq and Syria, tallying more than 100 incidents. 

A Christmas Day attack on Erbil Air Base resulted in three U.S. service members being injured. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced necessary and proportionate strikes on Kataib Hezbollah facilities in Iraq, responding to Iranian-sponsored militias. 

2023: A year of challenges and Strategic strikes for U.S. forces 

These precision strikes aimed to disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Iran-aligned groups responsible for the attacks.

In retrospect, the events of 2023 underscore the multifaceted challenges faced by American forces worldwide, from strengthening alliances and addressing regional tensions to countering aggression and responding to attacks with precision and strategic resolve.

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