CENTCOM Coordination Center Represents Strong Coalition
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Mar. 16, 2007 In a nondescript building at U.S. Central Command headquarters here, officers from 64 countries work together daily to ensure the coalition fighting terrorism in the Middle East remains strong and well organized.
Despite inevitable debate about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this coalition coordination center demonstrates the strong international will in the struggle against terrorism, the center’s deputy director said in an interview yesterday.
“I think the state of support for the war on terror is still good,” Marine Col. David Greco said. “We are talking to countries every day. We talk to the 64 that are resident here, and many others that don’t have a senior national representative here, we talk to them via the State Department and via our attache system, where we have defense attaches throughout the world, helping those coalition partners.”
The countries represented here support the war on terror in various ways, Greco said. Some provide troops directly to the fight, some provide air assets, others provide access basing and overflight for coalition forces, and still others offer capital support. Japan, for example, has an oiler ship deployed to the CENTCOM region to refuel coalition ships, he said.
The United States and a few key allies formed the coalition coordination center right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. From there, more countries joined the coalition and therefore sent representatives to CENTCOM, Greco said. “It’s a pretty dynamic coalition, in that there’s countries involved from the Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East, and European countries,” he said.
Many officers in the coalition coordination center are connected to the senior levels of their home governments and can ease communication among the coalition countries, Greco said. Also, the officers represent countries that have forces working together in specific regions of Iraq and Afghanistan, so deployment planning is made easier. This camaraderie and interaction strengthens the coalition and translates to effectiveness on the battlefield, he said.
Every country in the coalition recognizes that the solutions in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be military force, but political and economic effort, Greco said. The Middle East has what leaders call a “youth bulge,” where the majority of the population is young people. Many of these young people are unemployed or underemployed, so economic development is especially important, he said.
CENTCOM also has a security cooperation division, which works to help coalition partners help themselves, whether through training military police or border guards, participation in military exercises, or help with funding and reform, Greco said. CENTCOM works closely with the State Department, the Defense Department and the Joint Staff to encourage increased engagement from international countries in the war on terror, he said.
“We have all recognized that the solutions in both Iraq and Afghanistan are not going to be solved with military power,” Greco said. “It is a pretty recognized and pretty well understood concept that there are diplomatic, economic, military and informational concepts that need to be talked about in those countries, and all that needs to be brought to bear.”
Provincial reconstruction teams are important in the rebuilding of Iraqi and Afghan society, Greco said, and CENTCOM is working to encourage coalition partners to contribute civilian experts to these teams.
“What we’re doing is working on coming up with the requirements of what kinds of job skills we need,” he said. “And we’re going to our coalition partners and we’re saying, ‘We’re not looking for military guys; we’re not looking for people to kick in doors and search for bad guys. We’re looking for people that can help rebuild the Iraqi and even the Afghan infrastructure.’”
There will always be debate within the government about the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Greco acknowledged, but countries in the coalition recognize political cycles and aren’t discouraged by criticism within the United States. The rest of the world looks to the United States as an example of government and policy, but the internal debate isn’t damaging to the international will in the Middle East, he said.
“While we debate, the rest of the world watches how the United States does business, and we all recognize that, but I don’t think it’s going to cause any problems in our coalition,” he said.