The commander of U.S. troops in in the Middle East and Southwest Asia cannot say if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ever end.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, was noncommittal on Thursday when Task & Purpose asked him at a Pentagon news briefing how much longer U.S. troops will have to fight in the “forever wars.”
The following briefing excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: From where you sit, do you expect that a new generation of children will grow up to have to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to make that kind of assessment here. I guess what I would just highlight for you is these things often take time. I do recognize we’ve certainly been in Afghanistan for a long time – and of course, we’re back in Iraq for a second/third time addressing some of these problems.
I think this is a reminder that these things often take time. I think as you look at other examples around the world where we’ve seen these insurgencies or the threat of terrorist organizations, they often times do take time.
We’ve been very successful over the last almost two years in a place like Iraq and Syria, where we’ve reduced the physical caliphate. But we’ve always acknowledged that the networks will go to ground. They will continue to return to some of their terrorist roots. They will continue to try to exert influence and re-exert their networks. So we’ve got to continue to keep pressure on this.
I think that is something that we’re going to have to do as we continue forward, whether that involves the next generation of American or other children, coming from coalition partners or others who are interested in this, I wouldn’t speculate on that. But I do know right now it’s important to keep the pressure on this and consolidate and take advantage of where we make gains and continue to apply pressures in the areas where we must.
Q: The U.S. military has had 15 years in Iraq and 17 years in Afghanistan. How much more time do you need?
I’m not going to speculate on any specific amount of time here. We view these as conditions-based operations. That’s the way that we operate.
I maintain a very robust discussion with the leadership and the [Defense] Department about where we’re making progress and where we’re not in our respective campaigns and the things we need to do and the things that I need to do to move forward.
I believe I have been extraordinarily well-supported in that. We do understand the impact that continued operations has on readiness for our services. Frankly, the services have continued to be magnificent in supporting CENTCOM – and other combatant commanders, I would add, for their things.
So I’m not going to speculate on any particular time. These are going to be policy decisions that are made at levels above my paygrade. My job is to focus on the military task that we’ve been assigned and ensure that our civilian leadership is well informed on the things that we are doing, the progress that we are making, and the areas in which we need to continue to move forward.
I feel very confident that I have that access and that ability to communicate those things.
A new bill would give troops with infertility related to their military service greater access to advanced reproductive treatments, including up to three completed cycles of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and cryopreservation of eggs and sperm for those heading to a combat zone.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks to Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) during a visit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Marines and Sailors with the 11th MEU are conducting routine operations as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
The Marine Corps' top general on the west coast is readying his Marines for the next big war against a near peer competitor, and one of his main concerns is figuring out how to alter the mindset of troops that have been fighting insurgencies since 9/11.
"If anything my problem is getting people out of the mindset of [counterterrorism] and making sure they're thinking about near peer adversaries in their training programs," Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California, told Task & Purpose in an interview on Friday.
A Ruger AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, center, the same model, though in gray rather than black, used by the shooter in a Texas church massacre two days earlier, sits on display with other rifles on a wall in a gun shop Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Lynnwood, Wash. (Associated Press/Elaine Thompson)
A new bill introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives would require a significant number of state residents own "at least one" AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with the help of a hefty tax break — except it won't ever get off the ground.
The casket carrying the remains of Scott Wirtz, a civilian employee of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency killed along with three members of the U.S. military during a recent attack in Syria, sits in a military vehicle during a dignified transfer ceremony as they are returned to the United States at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S., January 19, 2019. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-backed forces have captured ISIS fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans, U.S. officials say, generating concrete leads for Washington about the deadliest attack to date there against U.S. personnel.