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Gaza pier suspension another blow to struggling US humanitarian mission

Gaza pier suspension another blow to struggling US humanitarian mission


The repeated incidents with the Pentagon pier in Gaza have sparked new scrutiny over whether it is safe and reasonable to continue using the floating operation to deliver humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians, with the Biden administration insisting the fact that it can save the mission and former military officials divided on whether to do so. he is therefore wise.

Deliveries to the pier were suspended Tuesday after it broke in rough waters, with swells reaching more than five feet, according to sea state trackers. third significant setback in a week; four U.S. military ships ran aground Saturday and a U.S. soldier was seriously injured last week in an incident the Pentagon declined to detail.

Administration officials, who say it will take days to raise the pier, have acknowledged the difficulties but maintain the project is worth pursuing as part of a broader effort to ease the dire food crisis .

Why don't we try this? National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday during a White House press briefing. If we had this capacity, and if it was available to us, if we had the know-how and the expertise to do it, why would we leave it behind?

President Biden announced the deployment of the piers in March, calling the effort an emergency mission during which no U.S. military personnel would set foot in Gaza. A coterie of American ships and embarked personnel departed southern Virginia a few days later, embarking on a weeklong transit and aiming for early May to have a floating structure operational, a timeline that slipped as the rough seas agitated the coast of Gaza.

Its installation was completed on May 16, and officials said about 1,000 tons of supplies reached shore before operations were halted. Pentagon officials have said that after a ramp-up period, they expect to be able to deliver up to 2 million meals per day.

The concept known at the Pentagon as Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, has been used by the military for decades, including in recent training exercises. But the pier system has long been limited to sea states no higher than three feet, according to several reports in military journals. Although efforts have been made to overcome this persistent limitation, much remains to be done, according to a 2019 assessment by the American Society of Naval Engineers.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby spoke from the Pentagon pier in Gaza on March 28, after deliveries via the pier were halted. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the east, is known for its sudden and strong winds, said James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and NATO commander. Heavier anchoring could help, as could positioning large ships to protect weak points in operations from powerful waves, he said, but in any maritime operation, weather can sometimes derail the best-laid plans. .

Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain, said he was against deploying the docks because of security vulnerabilities U.S. troops might face when operating them just outside of a war zone. But repeated weather problems have already made the mission a failed project, he said, calling on the administration to end it.

Essentially, all winds come down from the Mediterranean, Hendrix said. All this is quite well known to sailors. It is an area of ​​the Mediterranean that is difficult to exploit. So the idea of ​​developing a pier and quay structure? It was going to happen at some point.

Gene Moran, a retired Navy captain, said a sense of urgency to alleviate the humanitarian crisis was clear within the Biden administration and that while assessments had likely been made taking into account the weather, the commanders seemed to decide that they could begin the mission during a period of rough seas.

They were wrong, said Moran, now a consultant in Washington.

U.S. troops involved in the project are doing their best, but the Biden administration's reluctance to send U.S. personnel on land has forced a reliance on Israeli forces unfamiliar with the jetty system, Moran said.

The seas should calm down soon, he added, saying the maritime operation should be part of an approach that also includes continued airdrops and pressure from Washington to reopen land routes for more aid. can flow towards the Palestinian enclave. Israeli leaders, citing security concerns, have closed most crossings into Gaza, such as Rafah on the Egyptian border, creating bottlenecks for Palestinians on the brink of starvation.

I think our number one ally in the Middle East should follow our advice, Moran said. They created this situation and they must do more to fix it. This is a crisis of colossal proportions.

Paul Kennedy, a retired Marine Corps general who oversaw several humanitarian operations, said he questioned how well-developed military plans were to account for challenges such as bad weather, accidents and enemy attacks.

If the decision has been made to leave, then you are expected to credibly go, he said. Your job as commander is to try to minimize all of this.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue, said the pier operation was planned as history shows that this time of year typically presents favorable sea conditions. The pier broke after a North African storm unexpectedly moved offshore, causing conditions to rapidly deteriorate, the official said.

Joseph Votel, a retired Army general, said commanders must respect the sea, but the operation can still be viable.

We must continue to promote this project, said Votel, who oversaw operations in the region as head of US Central Command before retiring in 2019. I think the situation demands it.

Mission challenges, Votel said, present an opportunity for the administration to put greater pressure on Israel to open land routes to Gaza. U.S. officials, he added, could also consider delivering aid ashore using landing craft, a more conventional method.

These are emergency situations that we are trying to address, Votel said, and so the options will not be great.




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