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Michael G. Vickers to AFA: US Air Force across the spectrum of conflict

Michael G. Vickers, often referred to as the principal strategist for the largest covert operation in CIA history — think Christopher Denham in Charlie Wilson’s War , spoke to a room full of Airmen on strategy.

Senior generals with decades of military experience and junior airmen with only a few years in service listened intently about a host of issues, threats and potential adversaries.

Has Afghanistan turned out the way you thought it would, one attendee asked? “Afghanistan was a key point in ending the cold war,” he said. “The most important line in the movie was actually from Charlie Wilson to ‘not dis-engage from Afghanistan and Pakistan’ and is a mistake we don’t want to commit again. If there’s one thing we learned it’s that we can not dis-engage.”

According to the DOD Website, he provided strategic and operational direction to an insurgent force of more than 300 unit commanders, 150,000 full-time fighters, and 500,000 part-time fighters, coordinated the efforts of more than ten foreign governments, and controlled an annual budget in excess of $2 billion in current dollars.

Vickers has presented many times, see the presentation to the HASC: The House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Dr. Richard P. Hallion to AFA: Air dominance, the essential requirement

Dr. Hallion spoke to a hundred or so Airmen, Sailors and Marines from the US, and international militaries today about the threats facing the future of air dominance.

The one slide I saw said it all; it compared the F-15 and Su-30.

According to the Doctor, an Alfred Verville Fellow in Aeronautics from the National Air and Space Museum, the average age of F-15s is over 25 years while the SU-30 is only 6.5 years.

He stated that near peer nations would potentially build capabilities into F-22-like aircraft in the numbers of F-35s, which the world should take note of.

He also said that older aircraft can no-longer go in and “kick down the door” and that stealth aircraft with the capabilities like super-cruise would become more prominent.

More to follow.
Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Secretary Donley speaks at AFA conference

From http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123115377 :

From uniforms to deployments, nuclear priorities and the service’s future, acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley spoke of a variety of topics at the Air Force Association convention here Sept. 15. “We are providers of tremendous capability of air and space,” Secretary Donley said. “All Airmen in every function specialty are contributing. We need to prepare to engage and debate the major issues facing the Air Force.”

Some of the major issues he addressed regarded the nuclear mission, the recently deferred tanker deal and Airmen-specific issues such as manpower, force shaping and taking care of families.

Secretary Donley wrapped up his speech by saying he is optimistic that the Air Force will work through the challenges that faces it.

“We will continue to deliver the kind of decisive air, space and cyber power that the American people deserve and expect. And, just as in the past, the Airmen of tomorrow will inherit a force that we decide upon today,” he said.

To view the speech in its entirety click here.

Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

AFA hears Air Force future from top general

The chief of staff of the Air Force addressed Air Force Association Air and Space Technology Convention delegates Sept. 16 here to share his vision for the future of the service.
“The work we must accomplish is serious stuff,” Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said, “but I know we are up to the task.”
Part of the joint fight overall, his message stressed the importance of the role the Air Force plays in supporting combatant commanders and operations around the world. For more of this story, and to read about his comments on a new tanker, unmanned airplanes, and the future of the Air Force click here.
This blog posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Dr. Robert Pape to AFA: How The Next President Can Win the War on Terror

Al-Qaeda is much stronger today than they were in 2001,” said Dr. Robert Pape, author, and expert on homeland security during his talk at the 2008 Air Force Association’s Conference in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15, 2008.

During one of the breakout sessions at the conference, called “How the Next President can win the War on Terrorism”, Pape proposed removing ground troops from various locations throughout the Middle East, and the use of air and sea forces in a doctrine known as “offshore balancing” in an effort to deter future suicide attacks.
During his presentation, “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” Pape proposed to the audience of about 150 Airmen and civilians that the reason many Islamic societies began, and continue to launch suicide attacks against westerners has less to do with religion, and more to do with the United States and its allies occupying territories in the Middle East deemed valuable by Muslims.
Based on research Pape gathered from several sources between 1980 and 2001, which he complied in two studies, “Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism,” and “The American Political Science Review, 2003”, he said many suicide groups are quite proud of their activities. He cited one example from the Tamil Tigers, based in Southeast Asia. The group has a “yearbook” filled with photos and biographies about their members who have dedicated themselves to suicide attacks.
Dr. Pape’s study further concluded that ordinary terrorism and suicide terrorism incidents are moving in opposite directions. While there were only three incidents of suicide terrorism in 1980, that number rose to a total of 50 between 2002 and 2003. Conversely, ordinary terrorist attacks (non-suicide), dropped from 666 in 1987, to 383 in 2003.
“Suicide terrorism is conducted by non-state actors who lack the support to influence the larger population into siding with their goals,” he said.
There has been a large shift in motivation for the terrorists since the U.S.-led invasion into Iraq, Pape said.
Pape illustrated three patterns. The first is timing. He said suicide attacks rarely occur as random or isolated phenomenon, instead, he added, they happen in clusters. The second is their goal, which has more to do with driving the U.S. and its allies out of lands the terrorists prize. The final pattern is target selection. Democracies are widely viewed by terrorist groups as “soft”, and easily influenced by terror attacks.
After months of analyzing the terrorists backgrounds, including those who participated in the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Pape and his researchers found majority of the suicide attackers were from Saudi Arabia.
“The United States first began to station combat forces there in 1990,” Pape said. He added that though the U.S. had a military presence in Saudi Arabia prior to 1990, there was a marked increase in the number of ground troops stationed there after 1990.
“It’s crucial to see the presence of U.S. combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula is the best motivation for recruitment of new terrorists,” he said. “Al-Qaeda members are ten-times as likely to come from a Sunni controlled state that has U.S. combat forces stationed [there], than a Sunni controlled state which does not have any U.S. combat forces,” Pape said.
Pape added that Al-Qaeda has moved “pretty far forward in their plan, hitting military allies of the U.S. in order to remove them from the Iraq picture.” He used the Madrid bombings and subsequent removal of troops by Spain’s government, as an example of the success of their plan.
Iraq continues to be the largest campaign for terrorist attacks, with Afghanistan a distant second and growing. In the first 24 years of suicide terror attacks, Pape said, barely 5% were directed at U.S. citizens. In 2008, almost 90% of terror attacks are directed at U.S. military members, their allies or their operations.
Iraq is a prime example of strategic suicide campaigns, Pape said. Since the U.S. invaded Iraq, attacks on allied and U.S. troops have grown steadily, with all attacks being Sunni based. Furthermore, the reasons for suicide attacks are rooted in anti-American sentiment—a feeling the Shia community does not share. This, he said, is clear evidence the attacks are not based on religion.
But Iraqi Sunnis are not solely to blame for the attacks, Pape said. According to his data, there are two main groups involved in the terror attacks and suicide bombings, with the other group primarily comprised of Saudis. While others come from countries bordering Iraq, including Kuwait, Syria, Jordan and a few from Yemen, Pape’s data clearly shows the attacks are not based on a global jihad.
“This is a pattern of opposition to American presence in the region,” he said.
Pape said the current battle raging in Afghanistan mirrors this trend. During the first few years of the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan after 2005, suicide attacks in that country skyrocketed. The rise in attacks correlates closely with the rise in NATO ground troops, but more importantly, the changing geographic deployment of the ground forces.
Prior to 2005, Pape said majority of the U.S.’s ground troops were located near Kabul. Shortly thereafter, these troops were relocated to the southern and eastern provinces—areas populated primarily by Pashtos (who are kindred with the Taliban). This change, he said, correlates closely with a sharp rise in terrorist attacks by Taliban-based forces.
“I think in Afghanistan, we need to make a serious decision,” Pape said. “Are we going to deny Bin Laden his sanctuary in this region? Because he is operating out of this area, and planning attacks on the U.S. and its allies.”
Pape did not have a rosy outlook for the War on Terrorism. He said since 2001, the War on Terrorism has taken a turn for the worst. He cited the current administration’s argument that terrorism is based on religious affiliation and fanatical Islamic teachings. On the contrary, he said
“The data shows these attacks are not tied to religion, rather the stationing of U.S. and allied ground troops in the region,” Pape said.
“We need to think of an alternative strategy to our current plan in the Middle East,” he added.
Pape concluded that the next president of the United States needs to develop a new military strategy to deal with the region. Suggesting removal of ground troops, with the institution of a light security force, in addition to stationing Air and Naval forces in the region in what is known as “offshore balancing,” ensuring security over “our vital interests in the region,” he said.

We would love to hear your comments and opinions on Dr. Pape’s presentation.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Air Force Public Affairs