By Ms. Carmen L. Gleason, American Forces Press ServiceApril 25, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, April 24, 2007) - The war on terror is more than a military fight; it is a war that will require the work of many U.S. and coalition agencies, a senior military official told a group of civilian leaders attending the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference here yesterday.
Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the Joint Staff's director of operations, briefed 45 civilian business, academic and community leaders before their weeklong trip to several countries in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, including the Horn of Africa.
Terrorists use a flat, open network of communications and pass their information mainly through the Internet, Lt. Gen. Lute said as he briefed the group at the Pentagon. These are aspects that defy U.S. military capability.
"We buy airplanes, ships and tanks and recruit and train Soldiers to deal with the geographics of a tangible target," he said. "We can bomb training camps, and we can hunt down the enemy, but we can't bomb the Internet."
By using a nodal network to spread their extremist ideologies, Lt. Gen. Lute said, terrorists are able to easily recruit members, acquire weapons, build leaders and receive financial backing.
Lt. Gen. Lute said the United States and its coalition partners will also need a network approach to combat against terrorism. By "lacing together networks," Lt. Gen. Lute said, organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, and departments of State, Justice, and Treasury must work to apply constant pressure on the al Qaeda network.
As the group prepared for its 18,000-mile journey over the next week, Lt. Gen. Lute told the civilian leaders he wanted to put into perspective the importance of what they would be seeing as they viewed CENTCOM operations.
"The bottom line is to not forget where we started," Lt. Gen. Lute said.
Many Americans believe that the war on terror began in the United States with the 9/11, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he said. It actually began 20 years earlier, the general told the civilian leaders, with the fall of the shah of Iran, the Iran hostage crisis, the burning to the ground of the American Embassy in Pakistan, and the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan.
"The main enemy you will be hearing about over and over during the next few days is al Qaeda," Lt. Gen. Lute said. "But al Qaeda is not the only enemy today in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Lt. Gen. Lute told the group that even before Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden advocated the overthrowing of every legitimate government in the Southwest Asia region.
If bin Laden could be successful in planning terrorist attacks from Afghanistan -- what many people call one of the most remote places in the world -- imagine what he could do in Iraq, the crossroads of the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Lute said.
"The most compelling reason that Iraq is important to us today is because al Qaeda has declared that's where they want to plant their flag," he said. "We can't tolerate al Qaeda in Iraq. We can't let bin Laden get a toehold in there."
By working with 93 coalition partners, Lt. Gen. Lute said, the United States can assist the Iraqi government while the "window of opportunity" is still open.
"One of the design features of JCOC is to show you that the U.S. military is not the sole solution to any of these challenges," Lt. Gen. Lute said. "It's important for you to understand this isn't merely a military fight."
The military is there to provide space and time for Iraq to build its political structure, he said, while other arms of American government help them to develop local solutions for local problems.
"It may take us years or decades to get a local solution in these places," Lt. Gen. Lute said. "But this must be an Iraqi solution."