Success in Long War Requires Regional Cooperation
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2007 The United States and the international community will need to support countries in the Middle East as they join together to defeat extremism during the long war on terror, a top U.S. Central Command officer said here yesterday.
“All along, U.S. Central Command has been committed to a regional strategy,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert H. Holmes, CENTCOM deputy director of operations, said in an interview. “It’s very important for us to understand what it takes to partner with the nations in the region – not just single nations, but a partnership of nations – in order to engage a very violent and extreme ideology that presents itself as terrorists.”
The March 10 regional conference in Baghdad will be an important step in promoting unity among the countries in the Middle East, Holmes said. Iran and Syria agreed this week to participate in the conference, which will also include representatives from the United States, Iraq, Britain, and other countries.
“It’s very important to the region, because it’s an Iraqi effort,” Holmes said. “This is a sovereign state in its region standing up to say to its neighbors what it views as the neighborhood needs to stabilize, to partner, in order to defeat an extremist threat that threatens the entire region.”
The U.S. role in this conference will be much the same as it has been in the region for some time: to partner with the nations in the region and enable them to defeat the extremist threat, Holmes said. This will be a time to encourage the international community to use diplomatic, political and economic means to address the threat and stabilize the region, he said.
Moderate states in the Middle East are already beginning to address the problem of extremism in their own ways, Holmes said. He stressed that the partnership cannot be on U.S. terms alone, and the sovereignty of the partner nations must be respected.
If there is an increase in insurgent activity now in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s because the terrorists are becoming desperate as they see the continued commitment of the international community to the region, Holmes said.
“We have been there several years now, and there may have been thought that we would weaken and we would leave,” he said. “We’re not leaving, and it’s not just the U.S. Our coalition partners, the international community is not leaving.”
Although they are facing the prospect of a long struggle against terrorism, U.S. troops are still dedicated and committed to getting the job done, Holmes said. He stressed that the American public should not forget the strength and professionalism of the servicemembers, and the sacrifices they and their families make every day.
“We’ve got to recognize the very core value of the military that we have right now,” he said. “It is the greatest, most professional military in the world.”