U.S. Policy Update for Friday, 15 April 2016

USAID Announces $30 Million Grand Challenge to Combat Zika and Future Disease Threats

Today’s topics:    President Obama’s London trip / Foreign Aid / Anti-ISIL efforts /  Zika virus /  new VOA Director


President Obama’s London Trip

16 March 2016 Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom  “The President will then travel to the United Kingdom, where he will be received by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle for a private lunch.  He also will be hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron at Number 10 Downing Street for a bilateral meeting and joint press conference.  The visit will allow the President to offer his gratitude to the British Government and people for their stalwart partnership with his Administration and the American people throughout his Presidency.”

14 April Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 4/14/16      “Well, the President is going to go because the United States and the United Kingdom have a special relationship, and the President has traveled frequently to the U.K. to cement that relationship and to further deepen our cooperation on a wide range of issues.
And so I would anticipate that while in London, the President will have an opportunity to talk to Prime Minister Cameron about issues like our counter-ISIL campaign, our ongoing efforts to protect both British and American citizens from terrorism.  I’m confident there will be a discussion of the global economy and a range of other issues.


Foreign Aid

14 April 2016 The United States Contributes $421 Million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees   The U.S. is pleased to announce an initial contribution of nearly $421 million of humanitarian assistance toward the 2016 global appeal for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This brings the total U.S. Government contribution to UNHCR to nearly $698 million to date in FY 2016. Additional U.S. contributions in support of UNHCR’s invaluable work on behalf of refugees will be forthcoming over the course of this year.

The nearly $421 million announced today is in addition to the $191 million contribution to UNHCR for their Syria operations announced earlier this year by Secretary Kerry at the “Supporting Syria and the Region Conference” in London.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the United States contributed more than $1.3 billion to UNHCR to support continuing and emergency programs around the world. This included nearly $352 million to UNHCR for the continuing role it plays in responding to the Syria crisis.


Fight Against ISIL

Soldiers in camouflage gear position themselves in a training exercise
Peshmerga soldiers provide security during react-to-contact training near Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 11, 2015. The coalition runs five training sites in Iraq, where the coalition trains Iraqi and Peshmerga forces. (Army photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden)

14 April  Obama: Counter-ISIL Campaign Accelerates    The campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has accelerated, President Barack Obama said yesterday at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.   Obama spoke to the press after a meeting of the National Security Council at the intelligence facility to review progress being made against all stripes of terrorist.

In February, the president ordered the national security team to accelerate the campaign against ISIL. “And we have,” he said. “This remains a difficult fight, and a complex one, involving many countries and different communities in Syria and in Iraq. It is a military campaign and a counterterrorism effort, but it also depends on a whole range of political issues that face these two countries.”

The president said the counter-ISIL air campaign continues to hit the terror group throughout the region. “We continue to take out their leaders, their commanders and those plotting terrorist attacks,” he said. “For ISIL’s leadership, it has been a bad few months.”

14 April  “The Global Campaign Against ISIL—Partnerships, Progress, and the Path Ahead”    (Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs)
This evening, I’d like to focus on one threat in particular—the threat at the very top of President Obama’s agenda—and that is ISIL.  We, of course, remain vigilant against the full range of terrorist threats confronting our country.  In fact, in recent weeks, we removed two key al Qaeda leaders in Syria, hit a training camp used by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, and took out a senior al-Shabaab leader in Somalia.  But today, ISIL is the most dangerous terrorist organization we face.

What makes ISIL especially dangerous, however, is that ISIL is present both on the ground—attempting to function as a state—and online.  It is essentially a hybrid: a terrorist organization and an insurgency, which exploited the chaos in Syria and Iraq to occupy large swaths of territory—at one point, more than a third the size of Colorado.

Broadly speaking, our strategy to destroy ISIL is focused on four main dimensions: we’re relentlessly attacking ISIL’s core in Syria and Iraq; we’re targeting ISIL’s branches; we’re disrupting its global network; and we’re working around the clock to protect our homeland.

To defeat ISIL’s ideology for good, however, we must acknowledge the conditions that help draw people to ISIL’s destructive message in the first place.  Around the world, countries and communities—including the United States—must continue working to offer a better, more compelling vision.  We must demonstrate, as President Obama has said, that the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy.  That includes promoting sustainable development and economic opportunities.  It means letting people express themselves freely and participate in the political process.  It means responsible governance and protecting the dignity and human rights of all people.  Where ISIL offers horror, countries around the world must offer hope.

 A Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft seconds after take off
Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft have deployed to Turkey to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Marine Corps photo

14 April  Marine Corps Aircraft Deploy to Turkey for Operation Inherent Resolve  EA-6B Prowler aircraft from Marine Corps Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 have deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to support electronic attack requirements in Operation Inherent Resolve, the effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The deployment is planned to last through September.  The Prowler provides an umbrella of protection to coalition aircraft and ground troops in the fight against ISIL by intercepting communications as well as denying the enemy’s ability to communicate.



USAID – Zika Virus Challenge

14 April Combating Zika   The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus and associated health threats an international public health emergency. The virus, spread primarily through mosquito bites, is linked to serious birth defects in babies of mothers who were infected while pregnant. First detected in the Americas last Spring, Zika has now spread to 33 countries in the region.

To stop the spread of Zika and prevent other infectious disease outbreaks, USAID launched Combating Zika and Future Threats: A Grand Challenge for Development. USAID is calling for the global innovator community to generate cutting-edge technologies and approaches to fight Zika in the near term and to help strengthen the world’s response to infectious diseases in the future.


Voice of America (VOA)

Portrait of Amanda Bennett
Amanda Bennett,who will be sworn in as the new director of the Voice of America on Monday, April 18, 2016.

14 April  Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Named VOA Director   Amanda Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author, has been chosen as the new director of the Voice of America, the U.S. government’s largest international broadcaster.

Bennett will be sworn in on Monday April 18 at VOA headquarters, according to a statement from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA and four other U.S. broadcasting entities.