WASHINGTON: As the Army continues to battle radical extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, global trends and conditions portend the likelihood that “persistent conflict” will occur around the world for some years to come, the Army’s top military officer said here yesterday.
The war against terrorism “is a long-term, ideological struggle,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told an audience at the Atlantic Council of the United States. The council promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, Casey said, the negative effects of globalization precipitated by the world economic crisis, combined with growing urbanization and an increased competition for resources, are among early 21st century trends that indicate the potential for additional conflicts in the near future.
“Against that backdrop, we look out at trends that we see around the globe,” Casey said. “And the trends that we see, I believe, are more likely to exacerbate the conditions that we see now than they are to ameliorate them.”
Casey then ticked off some of those trends:
- Up until the world economic crisis, Casey said, globalization “was generating prosperity around the world, but it was generating it unevenly and creating ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ conditions.” The have-not regions, he said, are mostly concentrated in the southern hemisphere and contain people who “are much more susceptible to recruiting” by terrorist and extremist organizations.
- Technology, like globalization, has become “another double-edged sword,” Casey said. Computer technology that’s used to connect people and businesses across the world also is employed by terrorists to export their ideology and expedite their plans.
- Populations of some developing countries are expected to double over the next decade, the general said, putting more pressure on already harried governments to provide adequate services for their people. Meanwhile, he said, the world’s people “are increasingly moving to cities,” a trend that makes for tough urban fighting during times of conflict.
- Another demographic-related world trend involves an “increased competition for resources” among developed and newly developing nations, Casey said.
However, the two most worrisome scenarios, Casey said, involve “weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist organizations and safe havens – countries or parts of countries where the local governments can’t or won’t deny their countries as safe havens for terrorists to plan operations.”
All of these trends and conditions indicate “that we will operate in an era of what I call persistent conflict,” Casey said. He defined such conflict as “protracted confrontation among state, non-state and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political objectives.”
Such conflicts, Casey said, could persist up to “a decade or so ahead of us.”
The fighting that occurred in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006 that pitted Israeli troops against Hezbollah terrorists, Casey said, is an example of the type of warfare that’s likely to be experienced in the years ahead. In 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas “used improvised explosive devices to channelize well-equipped attacking Israeli forces into ambushes, where they fired at them with state-of-the-art anti-tank guided missiles,” Casey said. The terrorists, he said, also shot down an Israeli helicopter with a surface-to-air missile.
Hezbollah’s use of hybrid warfare — a mix of irregular and conventional tactics and weaponry – represents “a fundamentally more complex and difficult challenge than the challenges of fighting large tank armies on the plains of Europe,” Casey pointed out.
Casey predicted that future U.S. foes are likely to employ irregular and hybrid tactics in the years ahead. Meanwhile, he added, the U.S. Army is engaged in adapting itself to confront the new strategic environment of the 21st century.
First, he said, the Army is working to master irregular warfare “to prevail in counterinsurgency campaigns.”
Second, the U.S. military needs “to continue to engage with other countries’ security forces,” Casey said, “when we’re asked to help them build the capabilities they need to deny their countries to terrorists.”
Third, he said, U.S. forces need to continue to work with civil authorities in Afghanistan and Iraq. “And you have all heard people say time and time again that we will not win this conflict by military means alone,” Casey said, noting that securing success in Afghanistan and Iraq is predicated on the effective integration of all elements of national power, including diplomacy, reconstruction, governance, rule of law and other types of assistance.
Lastly, and no less important, Casey said, “we have to be able to deter and defeat hybrid threats and hostile state actors.”