Pentagon wants overseas help in war on terror

/ Source: The Associated Press

In a new blueprint for U.S. defenses, the Pentagon proposes not only to build better weapons but to work more closely with other countries so they can do more to help win the war on terror.

“We know we cannot win this long war by ourselves,” Ryan Henry, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told a Pentagon news conference Friday in unveiling a 92-page defense review ordered by Congress.

The report, which takes a 20-year look into the future, will be sent to Capitol Hill on Monday with President Bush’s proposed $439 billion Pentagon budget for 2007.

The budget, representing a 4.8 percent increase over this year’s spending, eliminates no major weapons programs and includes an 8 percent overall increase for weapons, to $84 billion, for the budget year starting Sept. 30. It excludes the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.

Unlike the highly detailed budget, the defense review published Friday focuses mostly on defining and diagnosing weak points in U.S. defenses, and writing a broad prescription for improvements. It reorients the Pentagon’s strategies toward the war on terror and away from conventional threats.

Private analysts praised the review for defining the challenges ahead, but some questioned its solutions.

Some aspects of review criticized
Michele A. Flournoy, a former Pentagon official who is now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the review makes important refinements to the way the Pentagon thinks about its missions but “failed to make the tough choices required to implement the strategy fully.”

Flournoy endorsed the emphasis on working with other militaries, saying, “Building the capacity of others to fight terrorism is now essential to U.S. strategy.”

The Pentagon report said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown the importance of adopting a more indirect approach to the war on terror — “shifting emphasis from performing tasks ourselves to enabling others.”

The U.S. has worked with other countries before. But the move toward cooperation contrasts with what critics say was the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 with a “go it alone” approach to defense and foreign policy.

One way the U.S. military would build new partnerships is to spend more time training other armies, navies and air forces, particularly in places like Africa where U.S. troops have not traditionally operated. That would require Americans to master more languages and learn more about foreign cultures.

Calls for developing regional expertise
More officers will serve stints in foreign militaries to develop long-term relationships and regional expertise. Also, the Navy would create a force of small boats that can be used in inland waterways abroad to help countries build their own maritime forces to combat terrorists.

“The department must foster a level of understanding and cultural intelligence about the Middle East and Asia comparable to that developed about the Soviet Union during the Cold War,” the report said.

It calls for expanding the ranks of special operations forces — the Army’s Green Berets and the Navy’s SEAL commandos, for example. They are trained in specialized warfare skills, like capturing fugitives and conducting sabotage, and they work quietly — sometimes secretly — with the armed forces of small countries.

Also, the Marines for the first time are establishing a special operations force, with an initial goal of training 2,600 Marines for that duty. The other military services have had special operations forces for decades.

No changes for Iraq approach
The strategy review, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review because it is required by Congress every four years, does not alter the Pentagon’s approach in Iraq. It also leaves intact the Defense Department’s broader strategy for keeping the U.S. military big enough to fight other major conflicts.

Among other highlights:

  • The number of soldiers assigned to psychological warfare and civil affairs units will increase by 3,700, or about one-third. They are in heavy demand in Iraq and Afghanistan because they work with local civilian authorities to build trust and influence perceptions of U.S. forces.
  • There will be a new five-year, $1.5 billion program to develop medical countermeasures for bioterrorism threats.
  • The fleet of Minuteman III land-based nuclear missiles will be cut by 10 percent, from 500 to 450 missiles. Also, some nuclear missiles on Trident submarines will be converted to non-nuclear missiles within two years. The Pentagon has not said how many will be converted.
  • The number of special operations forces will be increased by 15 percent.