Department at ‘Turning Point’ Following Historic Year
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2011 The military is at a turning point following a remarkable and historic year, Defense Department officials said today.
“If you look back, you see Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, Operation Tomodachi and many other national security events,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said during a news briefing.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that this year has also seen the demise of Osama bin Laden and the decline of al-Qaida,” he added. “And the increased pressure on [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula], to include the loss of Anwar al-Awlaki to that terrorist group.”
Such changes led Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta recently to say the department is at a “turning point,” Little noted.
“2012 is likely to bring opportunities for the United States military, and for all Americans,” he said.
The United States is “seeing successful transition efforts in Afghanistan” and “building a new relationship with Iraq” following the departure of the last U.S. combat troops there, Little said. But that doesn’t mean relations end in those areas, he said.
“The secretary [of defense] has made it clear that we are going to maintain a presence in the Middle East … that’s going to protect our interests and those of our allies in the region,” Little said.
Navy Capt. John Kirby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations, emphasized no final decisions have been made about troop posture in the Middle East.
“We are still working through what the post-Iraq regional presence is going to be,” he said. “So there’s been no final decisions made about where any residual forces may stay, or for how long they will stay.”
Little lauded Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the final commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, and his troops for implementing a successful drawdown of forces in Iraq.
“I would note that this was the most successful logistical drawdown in U.S. military history,” he said. “And General Austin and the men and women in uniform who carried that out deserve tremendous praise.”
Little expressed gratitude for service members and their families over the past year.
“The men and women of the U.S. military and their families have done incredible work, have had many successes, and of course, have made sacrifices,” he said. “And to them, especially, we say thank you.”