'We Can Not Rest On Our Success,' Myers Tells Reporters
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 13, 2002 While America and its allies have achieved many goals thus far in the war against global terrorism, it's not time to rest on laurels, the U.S. military's senior officer said here today.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the National Press Club that U.S. and coalition forces have helped remove a hostile regime from power in Afghanistan while eliminating a major terrorist safe haven.
"We did this with the least collateral damage and loss of innocent life than any comparable operation in history," Myers pointed out.
"Clearly," he added, "This was a major military victory."
Consequently, Afghanistan today is "a radically different country from a year ago," the general noted. Two million Afghan refugees have returned to their country, he said. Three million Afghan girls and boys have returned to school, he added, noting the students have access to more than 10 million textbooks.
The Afghans have installed a new, democratic, national government, the general noted. And, an expected widespread famine among Afghans was avoided thanks to U.S. and coalition-backed humanitarian efforts, Myers said, with more than 500,000 metric tons of food aid delivered.
"That's about 40 pounds of food for every man, woman and child inside Afghanistan," the general said, giving credit for the effort to U.S. and coalition armed forces, while citing the key contributions made by other U.S., and, international, agencies.
"The bottom line," the general emphasized, "is that al Qaeda's major base of operations has been smashed." As a result, he noted, other instruments of national power can increasingly be brought to bear on global terrorists.
"With the defeat of the Taliban, we can now use our intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic tools, combined with the efforts of our partners, to accomplish even more dramatic results," Myers explained, noting that more than 2,700 terrorist suspects have been rounded up worldwide.
Funding for terrorism has also suffered, Myers said, with more than 160 nations having helped to deny more than $112 million to terrorists. And, he added, more than 230 individuals and business enterprises that had helped raise money for terrorists have been identified.
In Afghanistan, Myers noted, American soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coastguardsmen, and reservists accomplished what formerly was thought impossible.
The triumph of Operation Anaconda in March was especially impressive, Myers remarked. "We were outnumbered … and were successful and had very little loss of life."
Although successes have been achieved over the terrorists, Myers noted this war is a very different kind of war. America and its coalition partners respect life and make great effort to protect innocents, he pointed out, while the enemy has no compunction in using suicide soldiers and slaughtering innocent people to achieve goals.
The terrorists' intentions, he noted, are "to destroy this American experiment in democracy and freedom."
And, the Cold War-era strategy of deterrence won't work in today's anti-terror war, he explained, because terrorists have few fixed "hard" assets to target. Plus, Myers noted, terrorists are very good at hiding within civilian populations.
"Al Qaeda is a shrewd, patient and adaptable group," the general emphasized. Today's terrorists present a truly terrible and magnified danger to society, Myers added, since video evidence acquired over the past year shows they are actively seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
"With a single event terrorists might seek to devastate our society and those of our allies with chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons," Myers noted.
How should America's military respond to the terrorist threat over the long haul? Myers asked. The key, he noted, is to adapt with changing times and a different enemy.
"As good as our armed forces are, we can't rest on the success we've had to date," Myers explained. "While we must fight this war on terrorism with a great ferocity and tenacity, we've also got to improve as fast as we can."
That means the U.S. military must transform itself -- fast, the general said.
"The war on terrorism is going to take a long time, but we can't wait to transform," Myers emphasized, "We have to be very aggressive here, or we'll be going backwards."
Military transformation means more than just new equipment; it also incorporates new thinking to utilize existing forces in different ways, Myers said. Therefore, much of transformation will be accomplished "between the ears" of service members, he noted.
Transformation, Myers explained, is also "about creating new relationships and a new operating culture" to dramatically improve the force.
Information sharing will be the catalyst for military transformation, Myers noted. This involves "getting the right information, to the right outfit, at the right time," he explained.
Information is also important, Myers pointed out, as Americans discuss the terrorist threat, and how the United States and its allies should proceed in the war, to include debate about potential military operations against Iraq.
The press, Myers noted, plays a key role in this.
"You facilitate the national discussion … you provide the information, for the most part," the general told reporters." "We can't prosecute the war against terrorism without you, the press.
"And," he added, "We absolutely can't win it, without you."