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Centcom has just published General Abizaid's statement about the 2006 posture of the United States Central Command. It's fascinating reading, insofar as it is both a log of accomplishments in three regions (Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa), and a road map of plans and expectations for the coming year. To begin with, did you know how vast is CENTCOM's area of operations and responsibility?
The CENTCOM region spans 6.5 million square miles and 27 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, the countries of the Horn of Africa, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, and the Central Asian states as far north as Kazakhstan. It incorporates a nexus of vital transportation and trade routes, including the Red Sea, the Northern Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Gulf. It is home to the strategic maritime choke points of the Suez Canal, the Bab el Mandeb, and the Strait of Hormuz. It encompasses the world’s most energy-rich region – the Arabian Gulf alone accounts for 57% of the world’s crude oil reserves, 28% of the world’s oil production, and 41% of the world’s natural gas reserves. The more than 650 million people who live in the region make up at least 18 major ethnic groups of many nationalities and cultures. While predominantly Muslim, the region is home to adherents of all of the world's major religions. Human civilization had its birth in this region, with many cities dating back thousands of years. The diverse peoples of the region take understandable pride in their rich culture and history.The statement doesn't hedge about the nature of the fight ahead of us. It's a tough one and a long one. (I can just hear the Democratic Senators in upcoming years saying that nobody every told them it was going to be a long war.)
Defeating al Qaida and associated ideological movements will require significant counterterrorism cooperation among our allies and partners not only within the CENTCOM AOR, but throughout the globe. It will also require the dedication of military, intelligence, and many other components of national power. Our network of allies and agencies will eventually defeat the al Qaida network, but we have yet to master the integration of national and international power to achieve success against this ruthless, borderless enemy. We have long experience with nation state warfare. We must, in the years ahead, learn to organize ourselves to defeat a stateless enemy capable of delivering state-like destruction without having state-like vulnerabilities. Defeating such an enemy requires a careful study of its clearly articulated strategy and vision.I have to fault the report for having the usually PC pabulum about Islam being a religion of peace, but I suspect that, having described the conduct engaged in by its adherents, the General felt obligated to make a disclaimer:
This enemy seeks to topple local governments, establish a repressive and intolerant regional theocracy, and then extend its violence to the rest of the world. To effect such change, this enemy believes it must evict the United States and our Coalition allies from the region. Masking their true intentions with propaganda, rhetoric, and a sophisticated use of the mass media and the internet, this enemy exploits regional tensions and popular grievances. Al Qaida and its associated movements exhibit strategic patience and are willing to wait decades to achieve their goals. These extremists defame the religion of Islam by glorifying suicide bombing, by taking and beheading hostages, and by the wanton use of explosive devices that kill innocent people by the score. Their false jihad kills indiscriminately and runs contrary to any standard of moral conduct and behavior. The enemy’s vision of the future would create a region-wide zone that would look like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Music would be banned, women ostracized, basic liberties banished, and soccer stadiums used for public executions. The people of the region do not want the future these extremists desire. The more we talk about this enemy, the more its bankrupt ideology will become known. But more important, the more that regional leaders talk about and act against this enemy, the less attractive it will be. Osama bin Laden and Musab al Zarqawi cannot represent the future of Islam. Al Qaida and their allies are ruthless, giving them power beyond their relatively small numbers. They are masters of intimidation. Their depraved attacks menace entire communities and can influence the policies of national governments. They embrace asymmetric warfare, focusing their means on the innocent and defenseless. In Jordan, they target wedding parties. In Iraq, they murder children playing in the streets, doctors working in hospitals, and UN employees supporting Iraqi efforts to build their country. They respect no neutral ground.Anyway, I won't quote the whole report, but I definitely think it's worth reading, so that you'll know at least as much as your Congressman.