On December 28th, the Offices of Special Trial Counsel reached full operational capability, shifting prosecutorial discretion for 13 serious offenses away from the chain of command. This is the most important reform to our military justice system since the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1950, and aims to help strengthen accountability and increase service members’ trust in the fairness and integrity of the military justice system. This milestone follows through on Secretary Austin’s commitment that we must do more as a department to counter sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.
Separately, on January 1st, the U.S. Navy announced that the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group will redeploy from the Eastern Mediterranean to its home port as scheduled to prepare for future deployments. As was highlighted in NAVEUR’s press release, we continue to retain extensive U.S. military capability both in the Mediterranean and across the Middle East. This includes the current deployment of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the Middle East, the deployment of additional cruisers and destroyers in the Mediterranean and Middle East and the recent arrival of the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Notably, the USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall joined the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde, and have consolidated as the Amphibious Ready Group in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The ARGMU consists of three ships, more than 50 aircraft and approximately 4,000 sailors and Marines that provide sea-based expeditionary forces capable of conducting a wide range of missions in support of our regional deterrence efforts. As we have done since Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack on October 7th, DOD will continue to leverage its collective force posture in the region to deter any state or nonstate actor from escalating this crisis beyond Gaza.
And finally, I can confirm that on January 4 at approximately 12 P.M. Iraq time, U.S. forces took necessary and proportionate action against Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, a.k.a Abu Taqwa, who was a Harakat-al-Nujaba leader. Abu Taqwa was actively involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel. The strike also killed another HAN member, and it is important to note that the strike was taken in self-defense, that no civilians were harmed and that no infrastructure or facilities were struck.