At a House Army Caucus breakfast earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates previewed the near future for operations in Afghanistan:
The next few months will be hard, especially as we clear and hold areas where we have not had a persistent presence, and as we attack an enemy that has, over the past few years, become more battle-hardened, lethal, and media-savvy. As with our troop increase in Iraq in 2007, we expect violence to increase before signs of progress and positive momentum start to show -- hopefully by sometime next summer.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "will continue to affect the state of the Army for years to come," Gates said.
And, despite the stress of the two wars, the secretary said the Army would be able to meet its recruiting and retention goals "much earlier than planned."
As for long-term strategy, Gates said:
There is little doubt that the security challenges we now face, and will in the future, have changed -- and our thinking must likewise change. It simply will not do to base our defense strategy solely on continuing to design and buy -- as we have for the last 60 years -- only the most technologically advanced versions of weapons to keep up with or stay ahead of a superpower adversary, especially one that has been gone for nearly a generation.
We have to invest in new concepts and new technologies and take into account all the assets and capabilities we can bring to the fight. We have to measure those capabilities against the real threats posed by real-world adversaries with real limitations, not threats conjured up from enemies with unlimited time, unlimited resources, and unlimited technological acumen. And we have to prepare to wage future wars and break the habit of rearming for previous ones.
Some have called for yet more analysis before making any of the decisions in this budget. Or cited varying definitions of “requirements” in defense of the status quo. A number of the arguments I’ve heard remind me of the line about those who use statistics the way a drunken man uses a lamp post -- for support rather than illumination.