By Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 16, 2007 – U.S. military forces are engaged in one of the busiest, most challenging and most complex times since World War II, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday. Speaking at the 2007 Hampton Roads Navy League annual dinner, Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani said the two "shooting wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan make this the busiest time for the military that he's seen in his four decades of service.
"We face essentially five interlocking sets of adversaries," the admiral said of the enemy in Iraq. He said al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgents, death squads and militias, Baathist remnants and a criminal class that will work for any of the other groups, are determined, brutal, intelligent and adaptive.
"They draw support at home and abroad, depending on their aims, organization or ethnic makeup," Giambastiani said. "They exploit stocks of weapons built up from the decades when Iraq was the world's largest arms importer. Many people forget that. Throughout the 1980s, they were the single largest importers of weapons in the world."
The admiral said the groups' overall goal is to disrupt U.S. operations.
"In general, they don't stand for anything except chaos, which they see as advancing their cause or status," he said. "They don't build institutions. They don't build communities. They don't build infrastructure, jobs or businesses."
"Against this background, the United States with its coalition partners and the government of Iraq must seek to restore security, employ Iraqis, rebuild decrepit infrastructure, deliver government services and, in general, allow everyday Iraqi citizens who share the same hopes and dreams for their families that we do in the United States."
The admiral said the challenge in Afghanistan is equally daunting.
"You need to understand the scale and scope of what we are trying to achieve," he said. "We're trying to help create the first freely elected government in Afghanistan's history that is answerable to all of its people and whose authority extends fairly and effectively throughout the country."
Adding to the challenge is the geography of the country. "This endeavor requires many parallel lines of operation, not just a military campaign," Giambastiani said. "It's occurring in about the poorest and most isolated country in the world, in the midst of an insurgency of variable strength, but considerable ingenuity."
The admiral said the Afghanistan operation is not something that will be won overnight. "The task will require consistent international effort for a considerable period of time," he said. "Just think for a moment how long the international community has been involved in Bosnia as a gauge for what it will take in Afghanistan."
For the operation to succeed, it will take more than military might, Giambastiani said.
"While we can't be beaten militarily in Afghanistan or Iraq, we can't really 'win,' if you will, by military means alone," he said. "It takes more. Success in both campaigns requires the coherent application of international and national capabilities and influence in the political, economic and diplomatic spheres."
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Staff Public Affairs Office.)
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