Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
‘These Things Often Take Time,’ General Says Of Two-Decade-Old Wars
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.
KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Large cargo ships, small fishing boats and other watercraft sail safely past Naval Station Norfolk every day, but there's always a possibility that terrorists could use any one of them to attack the world's largest naval base.
While Navy security keeps a close eye on every vessel that passes, there's an inherent risk for the sailors aboard small patrol boats who are tasked with helping keep aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers on base safe from waterborne attacks.
So the Navy experimented Wednesday to test whether an unmanned vessel could stop a small boat threatening the base from the Elizabeth River.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."
A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.
Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.