Pentagon Plans for ’Long War’ on Extremism

A strategy document abandons idea of ’swift defeat’ and concentrates on special operations, drone aircraft and help from other nations.

The U.S. military plans to shift its focus away from conventional battles like the 2003 invasion of Iraq and toward “the long war” against extremism by boosting investment in special operations forces, drone aircraft and language training for U.S. troops, according to a Pentagon strategy document released Friday.

The long-awaited review is billed as a blueprint for a generation of budget decisions. Though it is seen as a cornerstone of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s plan to overhaul and modernize the military, the plan does not recommend elimination of any major weapon system.

The review does not endorse a large increase in U.S. ground forces. But after three years of a war that has been longer and more lethal than most in the Pentagon had envisioned, the document places a new importance on getting help from other nations to fight wars and keep peace.

The Pentagon assessment, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, will be presented formally to Congress on Monday, along with the Defense Department’s 2007 budget request. President Bush will ask Congress for $439.3 billion to fund the department in 2007, a 5% increase over this year’s Pentagon budget, defense officials said.

The proposed budget does not include a $70-billion request for new funds for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The strategy document, written in the shadow of the long and unpopular Iraq war, reflects some of the lessons that the military has learned over the last three years.

The 2001 version of the review, issued days after the Sept. 11 attacks, spoke of a military that should be able to “swiftly defeat” two adversaries at once. It envisioned that ground troops could topple a regime, occupy an enemy capital, then quickly redeploy forces to other crisis spots.

The Iraq war punctured that vision, and the new review abandons the language of swift victories. The document states that actions “defined in terms of ’swiftly defeating’ or ’winning decisively’ against adversaries may be less useful for some types of operations U.S. forces may be directed to conduct.”

Instead, it cites the need to prepare to fight a “large-scale, potentially long-duration irregular warfare campaign including counterinsurgency and security, stability, transition and reconstruction operations.”

The Iraq war strained America’s relations with its allies and limited the Bush administration’s ability to persuade other nations to commit troops in Iraq. With this lesson in mind, the review emphasizes the importance of working with U.S. allies around the globe.

“Recent operations demonstrate the critical importance of being organized to work with and through others, and of shifting emphasis from performing tasks ourselves to enabling others,” planners wrote.

The Quadrennial Defense Review calls for boosting U.S. special operations forces by 15% and increasing the Pentagon’s investment in unmanned drone aircraft designed to hover over enemy targets for days or weeks gathering intelligence.

The Pentagon also will increase the number of psychological operations and civil affairs troops by 3,700 — a 33% increase — in an effort to improve the U.S. military’s ability to “win hearts and minds” abroad.

“Now in the fifth year of this global war, the ideas and proposals in this document are provided as a roadmap for change, leading to victory,” Rumsfeld said in a letter accompanying the review.

As well as emphasizing threats in the Islamic world, the review focuses on Asia’s growing importance to U.S. interests and the need to hedge against China’s emergence as a military power.

The Pentagon review calls for boosting the number of aircraft carriers and submarines stationed in the Pacific.

Long before the review was released, it was assailed by some defense analysts for not endorsing cuts in some of the military services’ most prized weapons. Instead of being a blueprint for change, they argued, it reinforced much of the status quo by allowing the military to keep weapons that served little purpose when fighting amorphous terror networks.

Defense officials on Friday bristled at these suggestions.

“People think you can’t make a big change unless you make a big cut,” said Ryan Henry, a senior official on Rumsfeld’s staff. Parts of the budget are expected to encounter strong resistance from lawmakers, such as the Army’s plan to scale back from 77 to 70 the number of combat brigades it intends to maintain through a reorganization. During a briefing Friday, Pentagon officials defended their planned number of brigade combat teams, or BCTs, saying that technology had allowed the Army to do more with less.

“It’s about capabilities, it’s not about numbers,” Henry said.

Senior Republicans have expressed concern about the Army’s plan, and on Friday a senior Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee gave Pentagon officials a taste of what lies ahead.

“Today’s Army is severely stretched by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) said in a statement Friday. “It is not clear to me that an Army of 70 BCTs can sustain the ’long war.’ ”

In assembling both the defense review and the 2007 budget, civilians at the Pentagon largely left it to the individual military services to decide how their budgets should be apportioned. Services often chose to protect cherished weapons while seeking cuts elsewhere.

Though the review is considered a linchpin of Rumsfeld’s effort to transform the military, defense officials on Friday characterized the document as merely one stage in a plan that would take years.

“I’m not sure ’revolutionary’ is the right term,” Vice Adm. Evan Chanik of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff said about the document. “It might be better described as ’evolutionary.’”

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Citation: Mark Mazzetti. “Pentagon Plans for ’Long War’ on Extremism,” Los Angeles Times, 06 February 2006.
Original URL: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-military4feb04,1,7530223,print.story

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