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Strong International Coalition Heads Into Fifth Year

By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 27, 2006 – Just one day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nations around the world mobilized and formed a military coalition. Their goal: to combat global terrorism.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the coalition, which is headquartered at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Today, CENTCOM officials said, 63 nations are supporting the global war on terror. Since the coalition's inception, 27 nations have deployed more than 22,000 troops to Iraq. In Afghanistan, coalition nations have deployed more than 3,000 troops hailing from 42 nations. These figures exclude U.S. forces.

Twice weekly, coalition senior leaders -- or senior national representatives, as they are officially called -- meet to discuss operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The "SNR roundtable," as it has been unofficially tagged, is one of many meetings the coalition holds to keep abreast of progress on the global war on terror. In between these roundtables, working groups for maritime operations, humanitarian service missions and other groups meet to coordinate and plan their militaries' efforts in the war on terror.

The room is filled with uniforms as varied as the people who wear them. Flags from various nations -- France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Britain, Pakistan and Germany, to name a few -- adorn uniforms.

Danish air force Brig. Gen. Soren Falk Portved is the senior coalition officer, overseeing operations of the coalition partners. "Everything here is developed by bilateral agreement," Falk said. "Here we're talking about military strategies."

Coalition partners offer what they can to the global war on terror, Falk said. And coalition forces have made important contributions in the war against terrorism, CENTCOM officials said. They have provided intelligence, personnel, financial support, equipment and assets for use on the ground, air and sea. Coalition members also have provided liaison teams, participated in planning, provided bases, and granted over-flight permissions, as well as make sizable contributions of humanitarian assistance.

Coalition partners have provided about $3 billion in financial assistance Iraq and about $217 million for Afghanistan. Coalition countries have been involved in more than 1,700 reconstruction projects in Central Command's area of responsibility.

The liaison officers link their governments and their deployed troops to CENTCOM. Their presence here enables each nation to be a proactive contributor to global anti-terrorism operations.

Coalition military personnel make personal sacrifices to serve in the war on terror. Many are separated from their families for months serving combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, and others are away from loved ones for extended periods as they serve the coalition in Tampa.

Azerbaijani army Lt. Col. Akbarov Ilham's family traveled with him to the United States. Their adjustment has been relatively smooth since his wife is an English teacher in Azerbaijan.

Ilham said his nation and the United States share a common thread that brought both nations together. "We're suffering from terrorism in our own country too," he said. "We're faced with these problems, so we're willing to do this for the global war on terror."

Ilham said he keeps his government informed of developments in the war. But he also serves soldiers on the ground, he said. "We try to resolve any of their problems from here at CENTCOM," Ilham said. "We try to facilitate things for them."

In addition to serving as a vital link for their home nations, coalition officers here work on helping coalition forces adapt to ever-changing environments on the battlefield, handling complex logistical and tactical issues. "One of the things we're constantly worried about is the (improvised explosive devices)," Falk said. "It is a grim weapon. We're constantly seeking ways to improve our tactics to stay ahead in the game."

Falk said officers from countries directly influenced by the conflicts help the coalition better use forces because of their cultural, political and geographical awareness of the region.

"We're targeting bad guys and we want the bad guys off the streets," Falk said. "We can fight all the terrorists in the world, but it's just buying us time to win hearts and minds."

At the senior national representatives roundtable today, the outgoing German representative addressed the coalition. In his final words to the group he said: "Only if we stay together can we rid the world of terrorism. Similar attacks (like 9/11) can happen to us anywhere."

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