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American Forces Press Service

Wolfowitz Asserts Value of Ground Forces, Touts Their Role in Joint Operations

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2003 - Ground forces are an important part of the Defense Department's plans in transforming itself to meet 21st century challenges, the department's deputy secretary asserted here.

Speaking at a luncheon for members of the Association of the U.S. Army, Paul Wolfowitz said he's puzzled by media reports that say civilian leaders think ground forces are obsolete.

"Yes, the armed forces today have mind-boggling long-range precision-strike capabilities," Wolfowitz said, "and yes, we intend to take full advantage of that. But that hardly suggests that the Army is no longer necessary.

"I can't imagine a conclusion more at variance with everything we should have learned from military history," he continued. "For the record, let me state my own view, which I imagine is shared by almost everyone in this room: Wars are won by seizing and holding ground, and only ground forces can do that."

Wolfowitz said the power of the joint force working together is what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's transformation plan is all about. He contrasted experiences from the 1991 Gulf War with efforts a decade later in Afghanistan to make his point.

In the 1991 war, one of Wolfowitz's primary assignments as a defense undersecretary was to combat Saddam Hussein's efforts to draw Israel into the conflict, and to look for ways to suppress Scud missile attacks on Israel, he said.

"I remember many brave pilots flying over western Iraq, dropping bombs unsuccessfully at targets they couldn't find," he said. "And I remember some phenomenally brave Special Forces who went in on the ground in western Iraq and found those targets, but did not have the ability to call in long-range strikes in time to kill them."

The solution to that problem 10 years later in Afghanistan was "a true revolution in the ability to integrate forces on the ground with long-range strike capabilities," Wolfowitz said.

"We had brave Special Forces troops, literally riding horseback in cavalry charges, directing strikes by B-52 bombers coming from thousands of miles away - in a manner that turned the tide of war, at a speed that astonished the world," he said. "It was literally a combination of 19th-century horse cavalry with mid-20th-century bombers, to achieve a truly 21st-century capability."

But the transformation effort is not principally about hardware, as that example might suggest, Wolfowitz noted. "Most of all, it's about people - brave and ingenious and highly trained Americans who are prepared to risk everything for their country."

He said the Afghanistan experience is "just a faint glimpse of what that joint capability can deliver in the future as we move forward with a whole range of transformative changes throughout the force."

Wolfowitz said Army Gen. Tommy Franks, then head of U.S. Central Command, put the principles of transformation to work with "a level of tactical surprise that was little short of miraculous, when you think that this was one of the most long-advertised military operations in history."

Franks worked against Saddam Hussein's expectation that weeks of bombing would take place before any ground forces would move into Iraq, Wolfowitz said. "Instead, he had the Army and Marine Corps crossing the Iraqi border ahead of . the major air strikes, and then brought air power in to support them with a precision that would have been impossible just a relatively short time ago."

Under the command of Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, Wolfowitz said, "the first Combined Forces Land Component Command in our history, including our British and Polish allies, achieved a success that one of our British colleagues said will be Chapter 1 when the history of warfare is written in the future."

Wolfowitz reaffirmed the department's steadfastness to the future of the Army. "We are committed to ensuring that it remains the best-trained, best-equipped army in the world for decades to come. Our nation depends on it."

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