By Seaman William Selby, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 4, 2008 - As U.S. Central Command continues to focus on fighting terrorism in its area of responsibility, its main priorities are southern Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a senior CENTCOM official told online journalists and "bloggers." Recent violence in Iraq's Basra province indicates a secular power struggle in southern Iraq as provincial elections approach later this year, Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert H. Holmes, CENTCOM's deputy director of operations, said during a conference call April 2.
The situation is unfortunate, he said, but more violence may erupt in other provinces as people posture for power.
CENTCOM pays close attention to developments in southern Iraq, Holmes said, but the command plans to let Multinational Force Iraq and the Iraqi government continue to control the situation. The Iraqi government demonstrated leadership in its response to the Basra situation, which Holmes said is encouraging.
"It's so important, in pursuing the governance line of operation, that we see (an) energetic and active government of Iraq," he said.
Holmes said CENTCOM never takes its focus off the conflict in Afghanistan. Recently, he said, the command has had an active role in identifying requirements for the extra allied forces that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates successfully rallied for at the NATO summit conference in Bucharest, Romania.
"The reason it's so important to generate ground forces with allied countries is to demonstrate international resolve," he said, "which I've always said in my mind is very, very important for Afghanistan to be successful."
CENTCOM's interest in Pakistan has increased in the wake of the country's national elections, which Holmes explained is due to the political changes' potential impact on Pakistan's relationship with the U.S. military. Pakistan remains a staunch and active U.S. ally in the war on terror, he said, and CENTCOM will focus on sustaining the relationship with the country's military.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)