Terrorists Will Test American Resolve, DoD Policy Official Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2006 The nature of the United States' enemies has changed, and Americans must maintain patience and will as the country fights the Long War against extremists, a top DoD policy official said here today.
Unlike past wars, the enemy today is not a nation state challenging America with military force, but rather a dispersed global network of extremist groups who use terror, propaganda and indiscriminate violence as they seek to advance their political gains, Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a presentation entitled "Threats, Resources and the Long War," sponsored by "Congressional Quarterly" and Dittus Communications.
"The enemy seeks the expulsion of foreign nations from Muslim lands and to establish the Caliphate that promotes violence and oppression," he said. The Caliphate was the era of Islam's ascendancy from the death of Muhammad to the 13th century. Terrorists have said they want to create a vast region led by one supreme Muslim ruler.
"The enemy believes they can erode the patience and political will of the United States and its allies," Edelman said.
Al Qaeda is the most dangerous manifestation of the enemy, but there are many other groups as well. These groups include narcoterrorists in Latin America and Afghanistan and Maoist groups in Nepal.
The Long War will be a test of wills, Edelman said. The enemy cannot hope to beat U.S. forces on the battlefield, but terrorists will try to sap U.S. will as they entice people to support them actively and passively, he said.
"(Al Qaeda) is an agile and adaptive network that presents us another challenge because it is decentralized, it is franchised, and it's unconstrained by rules that we apply to ourselves," he said. "I don't think that's a fact that should intimidate us. I don't think we should settle for anything less than a world where the kind of violent extremism represented by al Qaeda is treated (in the same way as) genocide, piracy and slavery are treated."
The ultimate U.S. goal is to prevent violent extremism from posing a threat to free and open societies, and to create a global environment inhospitable to violent extremism. The Defense Department's priority is to protect and defend the homeland.
To do this, the military will pursue an active and layered defense. The American military will attack terrorists and their ability to operate effectively. "This will be a long-term project," Edelman said.
At the heart of the strategy are efforts to support moderate Muslims in rejecting violent extremism. The United States will expand foreign partnerships, prevent terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction, and realign domestic and international institutions to defeat violent extremism, Edelman said.
Building partnership capacity is an enormous part of the mission. America has many friends willing to help address this "generational challenge," he said.
"In many cases coalition partners will be better able to deal with terrorism "because they know the culture, the geography and the language in which they're operating," Edelman said. "What they sometimes lack is the right training, equipment or institutional structures to be effective. Building these capacities is one key element in our strategy for the Long War."
Helping build allies up prevents crises from becoming conflicts and comes at a fraction of the cost in human lives of deploying American soldiers. Edelman said the cost of training and equipping an Afghan soldier is roughly $11,000. For an Iraqi soldier or policeman the cost is $40,000. It's "well over $100,000" to deploy an American soldier, he said.
Other countries need more money, and DoD needs more authority from Congress to assist partner nations, Edelman said.
The wide variety of ways that the U.S. military supports the war on terrorism highlights the differences between this war and those the United States has fought in the past, he said. Earthquake aid in Pakistan is one example. Following the October quake that killed 75,000, American servicemembers brought their equipment to the stricken area and rescued hundreds, fed thousands, and sheltered millions.
"This also helped contribute to an environment where moderate Muslims could speak out against some of the extremists who were seeking to take advantage of the earthquake and relief effort," Edelman said. "The roles that we play may not be the ones you would think we would be playing. There was a similar experience in tsunami relief" after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.
The nature of planning must also change. There is not a military solution to the problem of terrorism, Edelman said. The Quadrennial Defense Review, issued in February, maps the steps to take to develop the new mix of capabilities needed to fight the war.
"We are prepared to help other states address gaps in their governance and an opportunity to create more effective democracies and to inoculate their societies against terrorism and insurgency," Edelman said. "Democracies that respect basic human rights and are responsive to their citizens, maintain justice and the rule of law within their borders, and create and maintain the institutions of a civil society are our best hope in this fight."
Edelman said he agrees with President Bush, who said "the only force that can break the reign of hatred and resentment is the force of human freedom."
Key capabilities that DoD must bulk up as it fights the Long War include improved human intelligence to discern the intentions of the enemy, persistent surveillance to find and target enemy capabilities, development of language and cultural awareness, and "capabilities to locate, tag and track terrorists in all domains -- including cyberspace," Edelman said.
Specifically, the department will expand special operations forces by a third, expand psychological operations and civil affairs units by a third, and increase numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.