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Rumsfeld's Annual Report Outlines Lessons Learned in War on Terror

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2002 – U.S. service members' capacity for adaptation is a precious commodity that made possible American and coalition successes in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in his Annual Report to the President and the Congress.

In the report, released Aug. 15, Rumsfeld said U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan aren't necessarily a model for the next military campaign, "which in all likelihood will involve very different circumstances and impose very different demands."

"Nevertheless," he insisted, "some lessons can be drawn from recent events and can be applied to the future." The report outlines nine "lessons learned" from the war on terrorism thus far.

"Wars in the 21st century will increasingly require use of all elements of national power," the report states. These include economic, diplomatic, financial, law enforcement, and intelligence, in addition to overt and covert military operations. Pentagon officials have said U.S. efforts in the war on terrorism go beyond the well-publicized military battles.

Rumsfeld and other senior leaders also have said often that "jointness" will be the key to all future military success. The report supports their contention.

"The victories in Afghanistan were won by 'composite' teams of U.S. Special Forces on the ground, working with Navy, Air Force and Marine pilots in the sky," the report states.

Other lessons learned include:

o "Wars are best fought by coalitions of the willing -- but they should not be fought by committee." Rumsfeld has said and is repeated in the report: "The mission must determine the coalition. The coalition must not determine the mission."

o Prevention and sometimes even pre-emption are necessary to effectively defend the United States. "The best defense is a good offense," as President Bush and Rumsfeld have said.

o The United States must not rule out using ground forces in advance. "For a persuasive deterrent, the United States must lean forward, not back. And the enemy must see that," the report states.

o The war on terrorism requires steady pressure on the enemy. The report explains that not allowing the Taliban and al Qaeda breathing room or time to regroup in the form of "strategic pauses" helped bring a swift end to the Taliban's brutality.

o New technologies haven't totally replaced conventional weapons and strategies. "In Afghanistan, precision-guided bombs from the sky did not achieve optimal effectiveness until the United States placed old-fashioned boots on the ground to tell the bombers exactly where to drop their munitions," the report states.

The report says military operations must be directly linked to humanitarian operations and other efforts to rally local populations to the U.S. cause.

It also states that national leaders "must be straight with the American people." The public understands the war on terror will not be easy and what is needed to get the job done. Straight talk from leaders helps forge a bond of public trust, which is "key to victory," the report says.

The report cautions that terrorism isn't the only threat to American security in this century. "The next threat could be from missiles or cyber attack," the report states. "Moreover, the rise of asymmetric threats does not preclude the possibility that in the future great regional powers will seek to challenge the United States or its allies and friends by conventional means."

The entire annual report is available in HTML and .pdf versions at www.defenselink.mil/execsec/adr2002/toc2002.htm.

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