Progress Being Made Throughout U.S. Central Command Region
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar, April 18, 2006 Negative media reports on continuing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan make it hard for people to recognize political and economic progress being made there and in surrounding countries, the senior enlisted advisor to the commander of U.S. Central Command said here.
Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Curtis L. Brownhill said progress in the Central Command region -- which runs from Kenya in Africa to Kazakhstan in Central Asia and includes Egypt and Pakistan -- includes more than just what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. Progress is measured in many countries taking steps toward representative government and those nations creating opportunities for their populations.
Iraq and Afghanistan are the central fronts in the war on terror right now, but there are 25 other countries in the command's area of operations, Brownhill noted. What happens in those countries is also important to American national interests.
U.S. Central Command provides the shield behind which countries in the region can make changes that will benefit all, he said. Overall, conflict in the region comes down to a struggle between "moderates and extremists within Islam." The area is the home of extremist groups like al Qaeda, but moderate countries realize this and are taking steps to defuse the situation through reform, he said.
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and other states are increasing representation in their nations, Brownhill said. These nations need the confidence to forge forward and understand what stability in the region really means and what it will look like. With the world so intertwined and economies around the word dependent on Middle Eastern oil, the rest of the world has to be concerned about stability in the region also, he said.
Operations in the region are "all about security and stability, about building confidence and capacity and about building representative governments that appreciate the needs of all the people in the countries and not just the select few," he said.
Security and respect for the rule of law for all will allow people to raise families without fear. "If those things are denied by oppressive governments, then those young people become disenfranchised," Brownhill said. "And they become prime recruiting pools for al Qaeda and like organizations."
In addition to directing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. Central Command also is working to increase security cooperation in the region.
As the senior enlisted advisor, Brownhill serves as Army Gen. John Abizaid's eyes and ears for enlisted matters. He said American servicemembers in the region understand their mission, understand the desired end state in the region, and "are a lot more tolerant of setbacks than we give them credit for."
He said morale is good throughout the region. "(Servicemembers') focus is on the mission, and that is a part of morale in itself. If the work is worthy, then people will stay with the work," he said.
Brownhill also spoke on the transition to NATO command in Afghanistan. He said the transition is going well. While Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have increased recently, the people of the country do not want the extremist group back in power.
He said many attacks can be traced to Taliban remnants, but "not all of this is about that enemy." Corruption, criminal activity, and local conflict among warlords are prevalent in Afghanistan. Assigning the Taliban the responsibility for all attacks is probably wrong, Brownhill said.
The same is true in Iraq, he added. "Keep in mind that Saddam (Hussein) flushed the prison system out before major combat operations," he said. "Some of the people we fight in Iraq are Saddam loyalists, and insurgents, but there's still a criminal element, and there are opportunists that thrive on instability."
Brownhill said he doubts Iraq will devolve into civil war. "The reality today is there are as many conditions for that not to occur as to occur, and people forget that," he said. "Representative government has to be rooted (in the country); it has to be looked at with integrity in the eyes of the people it represents, and that is a political thing that we can't do a whole lot about. We just keep putting the shield up."