By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
April 27, 2007 – The key to bringing stability to the Middle East lies in the success of the military providing security for countries within the region, the deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command told members of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference yesterday. Forty-five civilian leaders from throughout the United States are participating in the Defense Department's whirlwind tour of military installations within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to better grasp the role the men and women of the armed services are playing in the global war on terror.
"Security is a means to an end," Navy Rear Adm. Scott H. Swift said as he addressed the participants of the Defense Department's Joint Civilian Orientation Conference at the command's headquarters. "The end is certainly the growth of the region - financially, by gaining independence, and by developing religious and governance autonomy so that countries can find their way forward."
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet consist of as many as 25 ships and 15,000 sailors and Marines in an area covering 2.5 million square miles.
Naval forces in the gulf are continuing to put pressure on terrorist organizations by expanding maritime security and building deeper relationships with regional partners.
Swift said that although NAVCENT supports the sailors and Marines who are assigned to the command and are working in Iraq and Afghanistan, his organization focuses mainly on the other countries and their sea space in the region.
Extremists in the region who believe that a peaceful co-existence with the West is not possible are constantly challenging regional partners, he said. They believe that violence in defense of Islam is the only solution.
Although some countries within the region have opened their doors to coalition forces and are accepting of other religious ideas, he said, the exploits of minority extremists are presenting challenges in stabilization.
"That has ramifications for global efforts that have been going on throughout the world," he said. "And that has a big impact here."
A few countries are managing to succeed despite the challenges. Swift described the strides in the building of Bahrain's financial district as being "phenomenal," as well as Doha, Qatar, which is seeing the rise of an impressive economic and social environment.
Swift said the expansion and achievement of greater autonomy has led to a stabilization that threatens the ideologies of extremists and is something they will want to counter.
"We're trying to bring stability to the region, but it's on a foundation that hasn't been set in the stability of a nation-state perspective," he said. "However, we want people to understand that it's a global approach."
This approach has also been apparent in the command's work on numerous humanitarian efforts with coalition partners over the past year.
NAVCENT has assisted its partners in humanitarian efforts following the January 2006 earthquake in Pakistan, the Egyptian ferry disaster in February, the July evacuation of the American Embassy in Lebanon, as well as continually working against piracy efforts in the gulf.
Combined Task Force 158 is made up of U.S., Australian and British naval forces working in the Northern Gulf. The task force has provided security for the oil platforms that produce 95 percent of the country's gross national product while training Iraqi sailors to take over the mission.
Italian and U.S. forces within Combined Task Force 152 interact on a daily basis with countries facing the Arabian Gulf and monitor the movements of the Iranian navy.
Sailors from the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, the Netherlands and Germany make up Combined Task Force 150. This task force covers the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and the rest of the Arabian Sea, manning three critical chokepoints and monitoring piracy within the region.
The majority of forces in theater are not American, Swift said, but the backbone of the capability falls to the United States.
"We have significant cooperation with coalition forces throughout the region," he said. "Together we will be able to stay ahead of our enemy."
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