Kim Sengupta: Changes mark shift in US strategy and emphasis

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The cuts announced in Washington will still leave the US as the predominant military power in the world, but they do point towards a reshaping of military doctrine, which will have deep international reverberations.

"The long wars of the last decade are over," declared Barack Obama yesterday, reflecting not just budgetary realities, but his antipathy to the missions of invasion and nation building he inherited from the Bush administration.

All the indications are that, although the size of the army will be cut to 485,000 from the current targeted reduction from 570,000 to 520,000, there will be no reductions in the number of carrier fleets from the current figure of 11.

This will put the focus on expeditionary warfare in which the US and allies would be able to use their formidable firepower without having to depend on facilities in "friendly" countries which, as the current situation with Pakistan shows, can be hostage to fortune.

The cuts are also pointers towards where the new focus will lie. Special Forces, intelligence, and the drone programmes are expected to survive relatively unscathed. The Marine Corps will face a degree of reduction, but a light one in comparison to the army and armour.

The "re-balancing" also paves the way towards the new area of the US's geopolitical interest – the containment of China. Greater presence of US fleets is expected in the South China Seas.

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