Franks: U.S. Forces Committed to Global War on Terror
By Casie Vinall
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 11, 2003 U.S. Central Command has been at the "leading edge of the global war on terrorism" for the past two years, according to Tommy Franks, the U.S. Army general who led the U.S. offensive against terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"The precision, the determination, the expertise of our young men and women who wear the uniform, and of our coalition partners," Franks said "has brought about the liberation of Afghanistan. It's brought about the liberation of Iraq -- both in lightning speed, in the sweep of history, with minimum bloodshed."
During his first address to the House Armed Services Committee since leaving his post as commander of U.S. Central Command July 7, the general stressed the importance of continuing operations in the war on terror.
"Our commitment remains as strong today as it was when we started," he said July 10. "Our troopers are working to bring security to the region, and they'll continue to do so."
Complacency in the ongoing effort is not an option, Franks said. "There will be no silver bullet that will solve the security issue for us. We have to remember that we are at war, and we have to continue to be offensive in spirit."
Even as the world's focus shifted to Iraq, he added,"the coalition and U.S. commitment to Afghanistan have remained constant."
"Afghanistan continues to make strides toward independence," he said, "and the Afghan people continue to develop their nation, while our forces, as coalition lead, continue to seek out and destroy terrorists and their networks all across the central region."
In Iraq, Franks said, Ambassador Jerry Bremer, director of the Coalition Provisional Authority, is working on three crucial aspects of reconstruction: establishing an Iraqi government, improving the economy and improving security.
Coalition military forces are forming and training police and security forces, as well as a new Iraqi army. Coalition troops are also helping to improve the infrastructure, support the establishing "both local and national government, (and) providing emergency medical care and other humanitarian assistance," he said.
Security is vital for economic growth, Franks said, adding that it's unlikely security will improve in Iraq until the people can see "some tangible benefit of their liberation."
Attacks continue to plague coalition forces in Iraq, but Franks said he would not label them a "guerrilla effort" for two reasons.
"One, guerrilla and insurgency operations are supported by the people," he explained, "and I've demonstrated to my own satisfaction that the people of Iraq do not support the violence that we're seeing right now.
"The second reason is that while we see increasing sophistication and we see the use of mortars and so forth," he continued, "what I have not yet seen is the networking of these capabilities in a way where these assets are commanded and controlled."
Regarding how long coalition forces will remain in Iraq, Franks declared that "absolute success" would be necessary before leaving.
"We want to be there for as long as it takes to have the Iraqis being able to operate with a form of governance that respects human rights as well as neighbors," he said. "But we don't want to be there a day longer than that."
The goal is to help the Iraqis govern Iraq "so that we assure ourselves that another safe harbor for terrorism and for the export of WMD is not created," Franks said.
The general pointed out that coalition success in the war in Iraq can be attributed to "the efficacy, the utility, and the power of joint operations."
Joint operations may well be the "most powerful aspect of this operation in Iraq," he added.
"During this time, our command, control, computer, communications and intelligence architectures were dramatically improved, and the synergy of those operations was taken to new levels of sophistication," he said. "Our forces were able to achieve their operational objectives during the military beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom by integrating ground maneuver, special operations forces, precision lethal fires, and non-precision fires."
With a current commitment of 19 nations, the addition of 19 more countries by summer's end, and continuing negotiations with 11 more, "we're moving in the direction of internationalizing the force," Franks said.
"I think that that is terribly important, because ultimately the Iraqi people themselves have to be in charge of this," he noted. "The road between here and there needs to be more internationalized with more interest and more activity by the international community."
Franks called for the military to become even more focused on increased cooperation. "Our ability to share information and work together also needs to be honed, worked, schooled, drilled, and resourced," he said.
U.S. operations in Iraq have also served to spotlight areas that need improvement, the general observed.
"Fratricide prevention is one area where we need work," he said, "as we suffered from a lack of standardized combat identification of the systems and the people, between nations and between the services on the battlefield."
Deployment planning and implementation need improvement, he said, and "coalition information-sharing also must be improved at all levels. Human intelligence and communications bandwidth are also areas which will require continuing focus in the days, months and years ahead."
Addressing the issue of whether the military may have too much on its plate, Franks recalled his thoughts of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I remember the way I felt and the way America felt when we realized our own vulnerability in this country as we watched the strike on the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania and the World Trade Center come down, and recognized the loss of some 3,000 people as a result of our own vulnerability.
"Our president said at that time that a heavy load is going to reside on the shoulders of America's military I do believe that all of us recognize the obligation and the responsibility to do whatever our president calls on us to do as part of the global war on terrorism," Franks said.
The general, who's soon due to retire after 38 years in service, shared his views on the military of the future. He said future forces will need to acquire the "desired transformational characteristics" such as mobility, precision, "lightness" and lethality.
Overall, he said, "the force needs to be lethal so that our country can remain credible, backed by credible military force," Franks said.