By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 22, 2009 - Commanders from the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility gathered here to discuss regional security issues and approaches to these challenges for a three-day conference that ends today. The conference, hosted by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, brought together Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Centcom commander; Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq; Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command; Lt. Gen. William G. Webster, commander of U.S. Army Central Command; and Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central, among others.
The commanders discussed various issues, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia.
"We face, in this region, a number of interrelated threats and challenges, from transnational to state-centric, to those who blur the lines between the two," Petraeus said. "At the transnational level, violent extremism is, needless to say, the most pressing challenge. Al-Qaida and its affiliates pose the greatest such threat to many states in the region."
The commanders also talked about the security architecture in place throughout the region and the need for cooperative, comprehensive approaches with regional partners.
"Such approaches involve significantly more than the application of just military or kinetic action," Petraeus said. "In fact, they must do far more if they are to address not just the symptoms of current challenges, but also their underlying causes. The lack of sustainable economic development in certain parts of this region, for example, is not just a social or humanitarian issue. It is a serious security concern as well."
Piracy, threats to the maritime environment and the need for continued cooperation with coalition and regional partners through maritime security operations also were among discussion topics.
"The complex threats that we face at sea require cooperative solutions," Gortney said. "We will continue to work with our partners in the region to respond to these challenges and help ensure peace and stability in the region. U.S. naval forces have operated in the region for six decades, and we'll be here for many more to come."
(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer serves with the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command public affairs office.)