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Esper Cancels Planned Trip Due to Coronavirus, Military Exercises Also Impacted

March 11, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Defense Department announced yesterday that a trip to Central Asia which Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had planned for next week has been canceled.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Secretary of Defense @EsperDOD has decided to postpone his travel to India, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan until a later date to remain in the U.S. to help manage the Dept of Defense response to coronavirus,” Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah wrote in a Tweet yesterday. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters during a regular briefing that there were two reasons for cancellation. One was the concern about what would happen if a member of Esper’s entourage got sick and had to be quarantined in a foreign country for 14 days. Second, “there’s also the desire of the Secretary to be in the U.S. right now working on our response to the coronavirus, not just with our own workforce but the effort we have with the whole of government support in finding a way that we can help HHS, help CDC, and help the rest of the federal government.”

The picture with military exercises, meanwhile, remains mixed. U.S. Africa Command announced yesterday the scaling back of a multinational exercise called African Lion. Hoffman said that “it was a decision that was made by the combatant commander that—in conjunction with the host countries—I believe it’s Morocco and Tunisia—that we were going to reduce our effort.” The exercise will now include only portions that do not require troops to lodge together in close quarters, as well as an academic portion, which has already begun, reported The Hill.

“Modifying the exercise still improves readiness while minimizing risk to protect both U.S. and partner forces,” said Africom chief Gen. Stephen Townsend.

One exercise that so far has not been scaled back, however, is the Defender-Europe 2020 exercise. Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., Vice Director, Joint Staff, speaking at the same briefing with Hoffman, said that planning continues for the exercise, but he stated that, because it’s multinational, the other participants get a vote on this. “But as far as we’re concerned now, that exercise is going to continue and that force flow moving those people will continue,” he said.

Helga Zepp-LaRouche in her weekly strategic webcast today called for the obvious necessity to cancel the Defender-Europe 2020, stating “the virus does not stop in the face of the military,” and calling it absurd in its intent.

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