In my first month as CENTCOM Commander, I have traveled to many countries and met face-to-face with leaders to discuss the situation in the region and to enlist support for our efforts. A number of impressions frame my overall assessment, which is one of guarded optimism.That is pretty clear.
Our top priority is achieving stability and security in Iraq.
Though sectarian interests are working overtime to try to divide them, large numbers of Iraqi people are indicating they are tired of the violence and willing to cooperate with Iraqi and coalition security forces.
In Afghanistan, I believe that the foundation of security and governance is in place. The vast majority of people are in favor of representative government and prosperity, not Taliban brutality, and they are standing up and fighting for their countryʼs future. Capacity of the Afghan Security Forces, particularly the Afghan National Army (ANA), is growing and the ANA is eager and well led.
The Iranian regime provides material support to violent extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine. It supplies Shiʼa militia groups in Iraq with training, funding, and weapons, including particularly lethal Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). It also continues to provide money and weapons to Hizballah, which threatens the legitimate government of Lebanon.
Iranʼs most destabilizing activity has been the pursuit of nuclear weapons technology in defiance of the international community, International Atomic Energy Agency, and United Nations Security Council. A nuclear-armed Iran would further threaten regional stability, potentially trigger an arms race, and increase the potential for extremists to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
The Syrian government continues to meddle in Lebanon. Its support for Hizballah is destabilizing the country and it stonewalls the investigation into the Rafik Hariri assassination.Wonder what Speaker Pelosi had to say ....... I thought so.
Over the past five years, terrorists, suicide bombers, and foreign fighters have traveled through Syria to attack Iraqi and Coalition forces. The government in Damascus has tolerated the presence and operations of Iraqi Sunni insurgents who have fueled the fighting in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country.
In Lebanon, the government is confronted by opposition groups and violent protests, but the Lebanese Armed Forces are maintaining a fragile order. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have stood up publicly against assassination and terror, and for their elected government and a peaceful, prosperous future.That last bit parallels a post I have in draft that I still don't know I want to post. That bit is the most critical of the whole thing.
In the Horn of Africa, Sudan continues to defy the international community and resist the deployment of an effective United Nations peacekeeping force to Darfur.
The African Union mission to Somalia is unable to provide security beyond its garrisons, resulting in a country vulnerable to the return of al-Qaida and associated movements.
More than 800,000 people of the region serve in their nationʼ security forces, risking their lives to combat terror. They are casting a powerful vote for hope, and ultimately victory, by fighting, and often dying, to ensure their countries do not succumb to extremism and terror.
As we move forward, our initiatives are organized into five focus areas: setting conditions for stability in Iraq; expanding governance and security in Afghanistan; degrading violent extremist networks and operations; strengthening relationships and influencing states to contribute to regional stability; and posturing the force to build and sustain joint and combined war fighting capabilities and readiness.
With the ongoing surge of Iraqi and U.S. security forces and renewed interagency commitment, I believe we can establish greater security in support of the emerging Iraqi political process. The surge of additional military forces into Baghdad in Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Law and Order) has disrupted extremist elements, at least temporarily reduced ethnic violence, and has been welcomed by the majority of the cityʼs people.
That said, I recognize that we have a limited opportunity in which to capitalize on the potential offered by the surge.
There is a general sense of optimism and determination among the Afghan leaders and people. They regularly voice their appreciation for our assistance, and believe things have improved since last year. We must help them succeed.Sounds solid. The quote from Fox Fallon that Skippy was thinking of, I think, was this;
"The Long War," a phrase coined by former U.S. Central Command chief John Abizaid to convey the time needed to defeat the religious extremism fueling al-Qaida, has been jettisoned by his successor, Adm. William Fallon.For those who are reading too much into this - don't. What you have is a new boss who doesn't like a catch-all phrase the previous boss used. The new term, I believe, is "Theater Posture" or some-such.
Fallon, who replaced Abizaid as Centcom's top officer March 16, considered the term inconsistent with the goal of reducing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, according to the command.
Fallon wants the focus to be on curbing the violence in Iraq and shifting responsibility for the country's internal security to the Iraqis.
Referring to the broader battle as a lengthy ideological conflict distracted from the more immediate benchmarks and suggested there was no plan to leave the region, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt McLaughlin, a command spokesman.
"The change in vernacular is a product of our ongoing effort to use language that describes the conflict for our western audience while understanding the cultural implications of how that language is construed in the Middle East," McLaughlin wrote in an e-mail.
"In this case, the idea that we are going to be involved in a 'Long War,' at the current level of operations, is not likely and unhelpful," McLaughlin said. "We remain committed to our friends and allies in the region and to countering al-Qaida inspired extremism where it manifests itself. But one of our goals is to lessen our presence over time, [and] we didn't feel that the term 'Long War' captured this nuance."
Some times a name change is just that; a name change. As for me, I still like Long War - because that is what it will be. No one will ever use the War of Islamic Fanaticism, or anything accurate like that.