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Military Planners Discuss War on Terror to Wrap Up Conference

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BUCHAREST, Romania, May 25, 2005 – Military planners from more than 70 nations discussed the war on terror here today to wrap up a two-day conference.

Multilateral Planners Conference III kicked off May 24 with briefings and discussions of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In today's sessions, conferees broke into four regional groups to discuss various aspects of the global war on terror, then briefed their conclusions to the entire conference.

Army Lt. Gen. Walter L. Sharp, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy, co-hosted the conference with his Romanian counterpart, Brig. Gen. Valeriu Nicut. The generals challenged the conferees to address who the enemy is in the war on terror, what that enemy is trying to accomplish, and what strategies might best be brought to bear to defeat the enemy.

The need for conferees to speak freely for the discussions to have value necessitated that specifics not be disclosed in a public forum, but the generals did shed some light on the proceedings during a news conference as the conference neared its end.

Nicut explained that all three conferences thus far -- the first in Washington a year ago and the second in the Polish capital of Warsaw in October -- followed the same format, with discussions of Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terror, and international operational security spread over two days. He called the discussions at this conference "fruitful."

Sharp thanked Nicut and the Romanian government for their willingness to help host the conference. "It is a distinct honor to represent the United States, the Department of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in this great country of Romania," he said. He praised the country for its "key leadership role in the fight against terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in numerous U.N. peacekeeping missions, and in NATO."

The generalSharp termed the conference as "very successful," noting a record number of participants. "This clearly demonstrates the importance and significance that all countries place on the issues that we are discussing," he said.

Though the conference would end later in the day, Sharp emphasized that the discussions can't end at that point. "It is very important for us all to continue the dialogue, with the goal of developing future multinational cooperation," he said. "Conferences such as these provide the opportunity to build regional partnerships that will prove vital as we continue to fight terrorism."

In summarizing the conference for reporters, Sharp said a good portion of the time was spent discussing the present capability of Iraqi and Afghan security forces and what they will need for the future.

"We had senior representatives from both the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Afghan Ministry of Defense participate in this conference," he said. "Both of them emphasized the need for continued support to help train the security forces from their country." Both also emphasized the importance of not only security, but also the other lines of operation, which include their upcoming elections, reconstruction and economics, the general said.

"What we agreed was that troops need to be there from all of the coalition countries in order to provide the security for all of those lines," he added.

Sharp also said discussions included the commitment and leadership of countries like Romania "who have said they will stay there until the job is done." He said the conferees agreed that any future withdrawal of troops would be based on Iraq and Afghanistan being able to govern themselves and provide for their own security.

The major threat in the war on terrorism, Sharp said, is from "extremists who are willing to kill ordinary people in order to further their political goals." He emphasized that the war in terror is not a battle of religions. Rather, he said, it's a battle of moderates who believe in freedom, representative government and democracy against people who believe in terrorism and dictatorship and don't believe in the freedoms of man.

"We've had excellent discussions (in the conference) about how the great majority of the world -- the moderates of the world who believe in freedom -- must work together to fight against the very small element of extremists that are in the world today," the general said.

Sharp noted that this morning's breakout sessions were intended to discuss and get ideas on the question of the threat the world faces, and that discussions in the afternoon session centered on strategies to win the struggle.

The afternoon discussions led to a consensus that the strategy should have three parts, starting with homeland defense, Sharp said. "The second part is the offensive - how do you go out and attack and kill terrorists who are out to hurt other people?" he continued.

"The third part is how do you counter the ideological support of terrorists and terrorist organizations? Because we believe that that is the most important part, because we have to stop more terrorists from being created."

That element, he said, translates into how to help the moderates of the world who say terrorism isn't acceptable fight the battle against terrorism.

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