Chairman Cites Continued Progress in Afghanistan, Iraq
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2006 Noting "incredible" strides for democracy in Afghanistan and pointing out continued progress in Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today told a National Press Club audience here that U.S. efforts in those countries are bearing fruit.
"The progress in Afghanistan has been incredible," Marine Gen. Peter Pace said. "They now have not only a freely elected president, but a parliament as well. They are going about the business of building their own country in a way that makes you proud."
The chairman said he travels to Afghanistan about every six months, and every time he goes back he sees "the enormous changes that the Afghan people and the Afghan government are providing for themselves."
Pace noted that with the aid of 26 coalition countries, Afghan children are now regularly attending school, business prospects are growing, and citizens are participating in the democratic process.
In Iraq, the general said, a lot of work remains to be done, but great strides have been made over the past year.
"A year ago, there were just a handful of Iraqi army battalions that were in the fight," he said. "Today there are over 130, a battalion being 500 to 600 guys."
And the Iraqi armed forces are taking over more responsibility and more territory, he added. "So as the combined armed forces of the coalition and more and more of the Iraqi security forces provides stability in the country, the Iraqi government can step forward and take hold of their future," he said.
Pace also pointed to the January and December 2005 elections, the October referendum, the writing of the new Iraqi constitution, and establishment of a new government, as further evidence of progress in Iraq.
Looking ahead beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, the chairman spoke about the importance of the recently issued Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Military Strategy. He said a lot of wargaming was done to determine the best way to deal with current and future terror threats, and future natural disasters.
"I know that I personally as vice chairman and then as chairman spent literally thousands of hours sitting with my civilian and military counterparts discussing where we were, what the challenges are for the future and how we're going to meet those challenges," he said. "I was proud to be able to report to the Congress that both in the case of the Quadrennial Defense Review and in the case of the National Military Strategy, your military is fully ready to succeed."
Pace was asked to define the term "the Long War," which is now widely using to refer to the war on terror.
"The Long War refers to the fact that in all the terrorist campaigns that we have known about, the terrorist campaign has lasted 10, 20, 30 years, and therefore there is no reason to believe that these terrorists would have a time span in their minds of anything less," the chairman said.
He emphasized that this does not mean that the United States will be engaged in the exact same types of operations in 20 years, but "free peoples, free governments, are going to need to continue to be alert and proactive against terrorist cells," he said.
Pace used the analogy of a city police department that cannot eliminate crime, but keeps the crime rate down to a level that allows society to function.
"The community of nations will be able to keep the number of terrorist incidents down below the level at which all of our freedom-loving societies can function and provide the kinds of services that we want for our people," the general said.
Pace was asked about the recent U.N. report that calls for the closure of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He criticized the report because its authors never visited the base.
"When you write that kind of report and have that kind of impact and haven't been to the place you're reporting about, there's something wrong with that," he said.
Pace stressed that the report is inaccurate in its depiction of the Guantanamo facility and the treatment of detainees being held there.
"Guantanamo is a facility that is run in a humane way," he said. "It has been the policy of the United States -- it is now and will continue to be -- that we will treat detainees humanely."