Com­man­ders Tout Val­ue of Train­ing Indige­nous Forces

By Lisa Daniel
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2010 — The military’s increas­ing prac­tice of train­ing and equip­ping indige­nous forces to counter ter­ror­ism in their home coun­tries is a high­ly deci­sive, com­par­a­tive­ly low-cost approach to fight­ing glob­al ter­ror­ism, the com­man­ders of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand and U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand said here today.
In their sec­ond day of tes­ti­fy­ing on Capi­tol Hill, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of Cen­tral Com­mand, and Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that the train­ing and equip­ping of mil­i­taries in Afghanistan, Pak­istan, Yemen and else­where is mon­ey well spent.

“It’s a heck of a lot cheap­er,” Petraeus told com­mit­tee mem­bers, to fund and train Afghan forces in coun­tert­er­ror­ism than it is to keep even a small con­tin­gent of U.S. forces there indef­i­nite­ly.

“I think the les­son in the fight against extrem­ism is that you have to put pres­sure on the transna­tion­al extrem­ists wher­ev­er they are,” the gen­er­al said. “You can’t do ‘whack-a-mole.’ If all you do is pre­vent Afghanistan from being the sanc­tu­ary that it was, then yes, we have to suc­ceed in that and also have our Pak­istan part­ners be the ones doing the fight­ing on the ground [in Pak­istan].”

Mean­while, Olson said, U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces “are engaged in low-lev­el train­ing in coun­tries across the region in which our adver­saries may move when they ulti­mate­ly are forced out of Afghanistan.”

The Defense Department’s fis­cal 2011 bud­get request would increase fund­ing for spe­cial oper­a­tions forces by 4.6 per­cent, allow­ing for the command’s con­tin­ued train­ing and equip­ping of for­eign mil­i­taries while increas­ing troop strength and procur­ing new equip­ment, Olson said.

Olson out­lined the way ahead for spe­cial oper­a­tions, ask­ing that Con­gress ful­ly fund his base­line request of $6.3 bil­lion and an addi­tion­al $3.5 bil­lion for over­seas con­tin­gency oper­a­tions. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, he said, syn­chro­nizes glob­al oper­a­tions against ter­ror­ist net­works, sup­ports plans for­mu­lat­ed by region­al com­man­ders and makes rec­om­men­da­tions to Pen­ta­gon lead­er­ship on fund­ing allo­ca­tions.

Of the command’s 12,000 forces, rough­ly 10,000 are deployed in the Cen­tral Com­mand area, which cov­ers Iraq, Afghanistan and the broad­er Mid­dle East, Olson said.

If approved, the new bud­get would fund an addi­tion­al 2,700 spe­cial oper­a­tions forces, an increase of 4.6 per­cent, the admi­ral said. He not­ed that annu­al growth has aver­aged around 3 per­cent, “a strat­e­gy intend­ed to retain the best while adding addi­tion­al man­pow­er only as it can be recruit­ed, trained, absorbed, and deployed.”

Olson not­ed the increas­ing­ly spe­cial­ized exper­tise of spe­cial oper­a­tions forces. “Cen­tral to our con­tri­bu­tion are our career, mul­ti-dimen­sion­al oper­a­tors; indi­vid­u­als adept in defense, diplo­ma­cy, and devel­op­ment,” he said, not­ing that they often are local­ly ground­ed in their areas of respon­si­bil­i­ty, are diplo­mat­i­cal­ly astute, and are experts in spe­cial­ized tac­ti­cal skills. “It is demand­ing work,” the admi­ral told the com­mit­tee.

But the num­ber of peo­ple who are both eager and qual­i­fied to serve as oper­a­tors is lim­it­ed, he added, and the com­mand depends on the ser­vices to main­tain recruit­ment and reten­tion.

Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces use both direct and indi­rect approach­es to counter ter­ror­ism around the world, Olson explained. In the direct approach, forces cap­ture, kill and inter­dict extrem­ist net­works and resources. “The direct approach is urgent, nec­es­sary and large­ly kinet­ic,” he said. “These effects, while sig­nif­i­cant in the short term, are not by them­selves deci­sive.”

In the indi­rect approach, an autho­riza­tion the com­mand has had since 2005, spe­cial oper­a­tions forces train and equip indige­nous forces to take over the fight, Olson said. The author­i­ty is a “key tool for our wide­ly dis­persed and often-iso­lat­ed spe­cial oper­a­tions forces around the world,” he said.

The spend­ing author­i­ty has result­ed in many suc­cess­ful coun­tert­er­ror­ist oper­a­tions by allow­ing for “essen­tial access” to loca­tions, peo­ple and infor­ma­tion, the admi­ral said.

“The endur­ing results come from indi­rect approach­es – those in which we enable part­ners to com­bat extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions them­selves by con­tribut­ing to their capa­bil­i­ties,” he said.

Direct and indi­rect approach­es must be care­ful­ly bal­anced, Olson said. “While the direct approach is often nec­es­sary and has imme­di­ate impact, it essen­tial­ly cre­ates time for the indi­rect approach to achieve last­ing out­comes through oth­er means.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)