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Afghan-like retreat debacle looms in Pacific islands

You think America’s tail-between-its-legs departure from Afghanistan was bad? Something even worse is coming in the Pacific, albeit more quietly.

US defenses in the Asia-Pacific center on a defense line running from Japan to Philippines to Taiwan and on to Borneo. The so-called First Island Chain.

Try defending against China along the first island chain without a secure rear area in the Central Pacific. And suppose it’s the Chinese in the rear.

American control of the Central Pacific depends on treaties – known as Compacts of Free Association (COFA) – with three nations: Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

These nations and their huge maritime territory comprise most of an east-west corridor from Hawaii to the western edge of the Pacific which is essential for US control and military operations in the region.

The COFAs give the United States the legal authority to operate freely and to keep other nations’ militaries out. In other words, military access and control.

As part of the agreements, the three nations receive American financial and other support including their citizens’ right to reside and work in America. And one should never forget that COFA state citizens serve in the US military at higher per-capita rates than residents of almost all US states.

The COFA agreements are up for renewal, and the agreements have passed the tortuous dozen or so committees and now just need to be voted on and passed. That is very much in doubt.

One issue is $2.3 billion in offsets. That means that to fund the COFAs, US$2.3 billion has to come out of the federal budget elsewhere. The $2.3 billion is over 20 years so it averages out to about $40 million a year for each country. Yes, $40