US President Joe Biden speaks at the state department in Washington, DC, the US, February 4 2021. Picture: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA/BLOOMBERG

PRESIDENT Joe Biden is halting or reversing a slew of foreign policy initiatives from the Trump administration, including support for a Saudi-led offensive in Yemen that turned into a humanitarian disaster and troop drawdowns in Germany.

Biden is ordering the Pentagon to undertake a full review of the US military posture worldwide, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday at the White House.

That includes freezing former president Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw about 9,500 soldiers from Germany — a move that stunned European allies and generated bipartisan protest in Congress.

Biden unveiled the measures at the state department on Thursday.

“Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, Nato, Japan, South Korea, and Australia — to begin re-forming the habits of co-operation and rebuilding the muscles of democratic alliances that have atrophied from four years of neglect and abuse,” Biden said.

The president  announced that he will raise the cap on refugee admittance in the next fiscal year to 125,000 — more than eight times the 15,000 person limit Trump implemented during his last year in office. Biden’s number is also an increase from the 110,000 person cap that former president Barack Obama implemented at the end of his administration.

Even with the administration’s changes, would-be refugees will face a long road to resettlement.

Trump’s move to substantially reduce admissions has created a years-long backlog of people seeking safe harbour.

And Trump implemented new, harsher vetting processes, narrower eligibility requirements, and budget cuts that increased the burden on federal agencies as they evaluate potential candidates to grant entry.

The president is also ending US support for offensive operations in Yemen, following up on an earlier move to pause the sale of smart bomb technology to Saudi Arabia, which has been widely criticised for how it has conducted the war against Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels in the neighbouring country.

Biden is due to  appoint a special envoy to Yemen charged with helping end the conflict.

Pressed on the administration’s strategy towards Russia, where protests against the arrest of democracy activist Alexei Navalny have taken place the past two weekends, Sullivan vowed that the US will respond to the country’s malign activities “at a time and in a manner of our choosing”.

He also said the administration is conducting a full review of the Trump administration’s outreach to North Korea, declining to say if Biden would seek to meet leader Kim Jong-un but adding that any diplomatic efforts would be co-ordinated with Japan and South Korea.

 The global force posture review Biden ordered the Pentagon to undertake could result in a return to other Obama-era policies, including possibly reinstating an administration policy that it supports closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay and transparency measures surrounding civilian casualties during US military operations.

Obama had advocated closing the military prison — which houses detainees from counterterrorism operations — but the effort was repeatedly blocked by Congress. Trump said he would keep the prison — which now houses 40 people — open during his presidency, calling Obama’s efforts to transfer terrorists from the facility “foolish”.

(SOURCE: Bloomberg)


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