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Mattis: Future Units Need Balanced Capabilities

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2010 – Although many of the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are deployed in a mentorship and training role, they’re still capable of taking the fight to the enemy, the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command said today.

Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and explained that such units are still configured to retain combat power, and that their multifaceted capabilities herald the future for the U.S. military.

“The theme that we’re seeing more and more now is the troops going in must have the ability to fight in a coalition atmosphere and be able to partner,” Mattis said.

He explained that this shift in unit capabilities is part of a larger policy directed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the entire military.

“The entire military force is becoming more attuned to this ‘advise and assist’ effort, whether it’s in Africa, Afghanistan or Iraq,” the general said.

The first of the designated advise-and-assist brigades began arriving in Iraq over the summer. They’ve done well to empower Iraqi security forces and to help ensure the gradual drawdown of U.S. troops, Mattis said.

“When those troops go in, they will focus on the train-and-assist [mission],” he said. “But it would be ill-advised to the enemy to mess with them. They will still have their abilities to fight, and these forces are quite capable of rocking the enemy back on their heels.

“The troops are trained and adjusted to the advise-and-assist mission in Iraq, and from our perspective, these troops are exactly the right thing at the right time,” Mattis added.

The Iraq model is adaptive, and is being used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well, said Mattis, whose command is responsible for providing efficient training programs to combatant commanders.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan are focusing more on improving the capabilities of Afghan soldiers through training and mentorship. Rather than U.S. forces being the sole tip of the spear in combat operations in the volatile south, U.S. and Afghan forces consistently fight side by side, he said.

“I’d go so far as in saying now that the troops that are going into southern Afghanistan are completely capable on their own as combat units or in partnering with the Afghans,” Mattis said.

Military officials in Afghanistan’s Helmand province estimate that there is one Afghan soldier per every three American troops rooting out Taliban in the Marja offensive. Only months ago, that ratio was estimated at one Afghan soldier for at least 10 Americans.

Mattis explained that the behavior of the U.S. troops in this capacity is just as important as the shift in their capabilities, shining light on the need to expand advisor and mentorship training to all combat units. Units must be organized to have the best-possible components and elements to execute any mission, he said, and must be tailored to provide maximum flexibility to deal with a wide range of conflicts and contingencies.

“While we cannot accurately predict the type of warfare in which we must be ready to engage in the future, we recognize that we cannot adopt a single, preclusive view of war,” he said. “Balance is key. We are learning, [and] we’ve got it right this time. We are using lessons learned to change the very makeup of the unit training.”

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Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis

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