|CENTAF Commander Visits Southwest Asia |
CENTAF Commander Visits Southwest Asia
By Staff Sgt. Cindy Maier, 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.
Southwest Asia -- January 17, 2001 (AFPN) -- During his recent two-week visit to Southwest Asia, Lt. Gen. Chuck Wald, 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander, said he does not see American forces leaving this area in the near future.
However, with the new presidential administration just days away from taking office, Wald said he expects a policy review to evaluate what will happen in the future for this region.
"The heart of (the review) will be, 'Are we going to stay?' or 'Are we going to leave?'" he said. "The spectrum of what could happen is that we could maybe get more aggressive than what we are being, all the way back to we would leave. But, leaving is not very likely, in my opinion."
Ward said he thinks the new administration sees the importance of the mission in the theater.
"I think there will be a policy review; I think there should be because of, first of all, the mission," he said. "The bottom line is that the mission has gone very well. I think the policy, even as critical as people have been about it, is very good."
The policy began nearly 10 years ago, after the end of Operation Desert Storm.
"We've been doing this since August 1991, and Saddam has not really threatened anyone in the region, per se, since this has started," Wald said. "We've cleaned out a significant portion of his integrated air defense system in the southern part of the (area of responsibility), particularly in the last couple of years since the (rules of engagement have) changed and where we have better capability to respond."
Though the general thinks the mission is going along very well, he believes the review will be critical to the future of American presence in this region. "Because of the critical nature of what the policy has been for eight years, there has to be a review," Wald said. "During that review, I think they'll (ask) 'Is there anything else we can do?' When it's all said and done, we'll probably have something pretty close to what we've got."
There is one thing about the presence here that needs to be clarified, Wald said.
"Brig. Gen. (Allen G.) Peck, (363d Air Expeditionary Wing commander), and his folks, as well as all the rest of the folks at Operation Southern Watch aren't directly related to the sanctions (against Iraq). Sanctions are things like restricting commercial flights into Iraq," Wald said. "We are here to prevent Iraq from attacking Iraqi people in the southern part of the country. Additionally, we are here for regional stability. But, we don't have a mission for sanctions."
Considering American presence in the region will not lighten, Ward said the current way of deploying Air Force people to this area, by way of the Air Expeditionary Force, is the right way to go.
The current AEF system has helped the Air Force in a lot of areas, Ward said.
"The (operations tempo) issue that we were living with two or three years ago seems to be gone. We don't hear people complaining about the fact that they're gone from home all the time," he said.
Ward said the AEF has "improved morale and predictability, gotten the total force more involved, and helped us focus on what we need as an Air Force for equipment, as well helping us see where we ought to place our emphasis and organize ourselves better."
There is room for improvement, he said.
"We've got a little ways to go on some Air Force-wide manpower tracking issues and things like that, but, I think it's been a significant success."