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Pentagon Leaders Cite Successes, Challenges in Terror War

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2005 – There's steady success in the global war on terror, but it's a war the United States can't fight alone, and one in which the U.S. military depends on its partners in government, senior Pentagon officials told civilian leaders visiting here today.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told alumni from the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference the work being carried out by men and women in uniform "is of enormous importance, both to the security of this country and to changing the world to make it a better place."

The civilians attending the session were among about 50 business, civic and academic leaders who traveled throughout U.S. Pacific Command in September to learn about military operations and observe them firsthand. As a follow-up to their weeklong trip, they visited the Pentagon today to receive briefings from senior defense officials.

Wolfowitz praised the work being done by the U.S. military in fighting terrorism and promoting stability. He paraphrased a popular Winston Churchill quote and applied it to today's armed forces, "with so many of us owing so much to a relatively small number of people and their families (for their support) in the war on terror."

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers shared the deputy secretary's enthusiasm about the successes being made in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only did the Iraqi elections give the Iraqi people the first opportunity to cast their votes in almost 60 years, they also helped showcase the strides being made by Iraq's security forces, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman told the group.

Iraq's security forces provided the first ring of security around the country's polling stations, and in two cases, sacrificed themselves to protect voters from homicide bombers attempting to disrupt the elections.

Myers said he's been told by Army Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, that the security forces' role in the elections proved to be a tremendous confidence builder. "It gave the security forces confidence, and it gave the citizens confidence in their security forces," the chairman said.

And while he said he expects "a period of some turbulence" as Iraq undergoes a change of government, Myers said he believes "the momentum is clearly on our side in Iraq right now."

Both Myers and Wolfowitz acknowledged that insurgents continue to plague progress in Iraq, but Myers said simply eliminating the terrorists isn't the answer to long-term stability.

"Because in the end, you want an environment that doesn't encourage extremism," he said, and that takes more than just military action.

"I guarantee you, we can kill terrorists," Myers told the group. "We have killed thousands of terrorists, but in the end, if you don't change the fundamental rules that moderate their behavior, then you are not going to win."

Myers said the term "war on terror" leads some people to assume that the military can handle it alone, but said other government efforts are equally, if not more, important. "It is, in a sense, a war, but it is not the military instrument of national power that is going to win it, that is for sure," he said. "We can play a role but we cannot win this alone. It takes all the elements of national power."

The chairman ticked off examples of several other government agencies he said are critical to the effort: the State Department, Department of Education, Department of Commerce and Central Intelligence Agency, among them.

"Everyone plays a role here," Myers said. "There's a role we (in DoD) play, but there are other things that have to go on."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

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