2002: A Momentous Year for American Armed Forces
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2002 Members of the U.S. military were instrumental in tremendous advancements in Afghanistan, Iraq, NATO and the United States, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
Speaking at a Pentagon press briefing, Rumsfeld outlined some of the department's most significant contributions of the past year.
"In 2002, Operation Enduring Freedom finished driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said, noting U.S. forces have also disrupted operations of al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The secretary highlighted humanitarian improvements in Afghanistan, where coalition military members have dug wells, delivered food, built schools and roads, and repaired hospitals.
Rumsfeld said American men and women in uniform "can take pride in knowing the pressure they put on the Iraqi regime has played a role in the progress that's being made." He called the Nov. 8 unanimous approval of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 "a turnaround regarding the situation in Iraq."
After a decade of evading and defying U.N. sanctions, Iraq has a final opportunity to "comply with its disarmament obligations," Rumsfeld said.
At a NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic, in November, the North Atlantic alliance invited seven Eastern European nations to join. All are former communist countries.
"The arrival of these liberated nations reminds us that although we still face serious challenges in the world, freedom is indeed ascendant around the world," Rumsfeld said about the NATO expansion.
The past year saw significant changes in the U.S. defense structure as well. The Bush administration "fashioned a new defense strategy with a way of sizing our forces and a new way of balancing risk," Rumsfeld said.
The reorganization of the Unified Command Plan will allow the Defense Department to better defend the homeland, Rumsfeld said. UCP actions included the establishment of U.S. Northern Command, and the realignment of Joint Forces Command, now more focused on transformation, and U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for early warning against missile attacks.
He called the work to repair the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack "a heroic effort."
"We celebrated the resiliency of this great institution and the stout hearts of those within," the secretary said. "The new Pentagon is better and stronger than ever."
Rumsfeld said the men and women of the Defense Department have a lot to be proud of in the past year. "(They) certainly have my admiration and respect," he said, "as well as my very best wishes for the holiday season."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers extended his kudos to family members, who manage children, careers and homes while their military spouses are deployed.
"It takes great courage to fight a war," Myers said. "But maybe it takes more courage to allow a loved one to go. So to the families, thank you for your courage and your patriotism."