Forwarded by Dave Benson

General John Abizaid, COM USCENCOM, spoke to at the Naval War College in mid-November 2005. Most of those in attendance were mid-grade/senior military officers who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, so there was a real understanding of the dynamics of these regions. The following are capsulated highlights of his comments:

“As he goes around the country and as he testifies before the Congress, he can’t believe how many of our countrymen do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. There are very few members of Congress who have ever worn the uniform of our armed forces. He said that the questions from some in Congress convince him they think we are about to pushed out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no relation between this and the reality on the ground!

“On the contrary, in his talks with troops and junior officers, he is highly impressed by their morale and their achievements. They are confident that they are capable of defeating the enemy.

“You seldom see a media story in the U.S. about an Iraqi school opening or a power station coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things seem to get the media coverage. He told the War College students to go to their local Lyons Clubs when they go home and tell the people what we are doing. If they don't get the word out, the American people will not know what is really happening.

“The insurgency is in four of 18 provinces in Iraq, not all 18. You do not hear about the 14 provinces were there is no insurgency and where things are going well. The insurgency in Afghanistan is primarily in Kandahar province (home of the Taliban) and in the mountain region on the Pakistani border. The rest of the country is doing well.

“Iraq now has over 200,000 soldiers/police under arms and growing. They are starting to eclipse the U.S. and coalition forces. Their casualty rate is more than double that of the U.S. There are more than 70,000 soldiers under the moderate government in Afghanistan and growing.

“He the insurgencies in the four Sunni provinces in northern/central Iraq and in Southwestern Afghanistan will be there for the unforeseeable future, but they will be stabilized and become small enough so the moderate governments will be able to keep them under control.

“2006 will be a transition year that will see the Iraqi forces take much more of the mission from U.S. forces. This is necessary to bring stability to Iraq. We need to be less in numbers and less in the midst of the people for the moderate Iraqi government to succeed.

“Our primary enemy is not the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is Al Qaida and their ideology. We are at a period now that is similar to the 1920s where Communism had not taken hold in Russia and Nazism in Germany. The ideology of Al Qaida is out there and it has not taken hold in any country in the Middle East. We need to make sure that it does not and we are doing that, but it will be a long problem with a long commitment.

“We are focused on the things that we Americans have done wrong, like Abu Ghraib, but we are NOT talking about this enemy. We need to talk about this enemy. Al Qaida is all over the world. Their goal is to get the U.S. out of the region and come to power in the Islamic countries of the region. From there their goal is to establish a Caliphate under a single Islamic ruler that goes from the Atlantic in North Africa to Indonesia in the Pacific.

“Since Desert Storm in 1991 US forces have not lost any combat engagement in the region at the platoon level or above. Al Qaida has no beliefs that they can defeat us militarily. They see our center of gravity as being the will of the American People. That is influenced by the media and they are playing to that. They don't need to win any battles. Their plan is keep the casualties in front of the American people in the media for long enough that we become convinced that we can not win and leave the region. This would be tragic for our country and for the Middle East.

“The battle against Al Qaida will not be primarily military. It will be political, economic, and ideological. It will require the international community to fight, too. We must not let Al Qaida get hold in any country. It will result in our worse nightmare. Picture life in Afghanistan under the Taliban. That is what Al Qaida's ideology has as a goal for the world.

“If you look at the geography of Al Qaida, there is no place to put a military solution. They are networked all over the world. They are a “virtual organization connected by the internet.” They use it to proselytize, recruit, raise money, educate and organize.

“They have many pieces that we must focus on: Propaganda battle in the media, safe houses, front companies, sympathetic members of legitimate governments, human capital, fighters and leaders, technical expertise, weapons suppliers, ideologically sympathetic non-government charities, financers, smugglers and facilitators.

“We are winning but we must maintain constant pressure over time with the international community and across the U.S. government agencies. No one is afraid that we can't defeat the enemy. Our troops have the confidence, the courage and the competence. We need the will of the American people to sustain us for the long haul.”

Click here for background information on GENERAL ABIZAID.