WASHINGTON: One of the more important national security jobs in this town, deputy assistant defense secretary for south and southeast asia, will be filled by a former Army officer with extensive foreign affairs and counterinsurgency experience, a well placed source tells us.
Retired Col. Joe Felter, who now works at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, “led the International Security and Assistance Force, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, in Afghanistan, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and and David Petraeus and advising them on counterinsurgency strategy,” his bio says. Our source says he also performed counterterrorism work in the Philippines, experience that may be crucial in coping with the unpredictable populist, Rodrigo Duterte. Mattis reportedly knows him well, so he’ll be able to reach out to him should it become necessary and has that extra credibility going in.
Our source raises an intriguing point, that Felter’s nomination would mark the addition of another American soldier whose primary experiences are in counterterrorism, which, while sometimes global in reach, is largely confined to certain regions and rarely requires knowledge or experience of great power politics. This new job does.
Felter’s new job copes with an immense swath of geography and enormous challenges:
South and Southeast Asia (SSEA): India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Diego Garcia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Island nations. He’s familiar with quite a few of the region’s hottest spots, having “conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia,” the Hoover bio says.
The Chinese will be watching Felter closely as he will be the lead in the Pentagon on India, Australia, Vietnam and a host of other countries warily watching the rising Pacific power.