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American Forces Press Service

Myers Says Cooperation Key Against Extremists

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT LESLEY J. MCNAIR, District Of Columbia, June 8, 2005 The nation's top military officer stressed the role international relationships play in the struggle against violent extremists in remarks here today.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told graduating classes of the National Defense University that the relationships they have built with their U.S. and international classmates are the most important aspect of their time in the college.

"These relationships and others that you will cultivate in the coming years will be essential in protecting our way of life," Myers told the graduates of the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. "Our world has become very interdependent and we currently face an adaptive, global enemy that knows absolutely no boundaries, be they moral or territorial."

Myers reiterated his belief that the struggle against violent extremism is about two opposite and incompatible visions for the world. "Tolerance, democracy, freedom and hope on one hand versus intolerance, repression, violence and fear on the other," he said.

Beating these extremists requires a united effort, and "relationships that are based on the common belief that the visions of tolerance and freedom are worth fighting for," he said. "Failure is not an option, and as long as we have the resolve of the American people and the resolve of the international community, working together we will not fail."

Myers said no country can "sit out" the struggle. He used the train bombings in Madrid last year as an example. "It wasn't just one country's tragedy, it was all of ours," Myers said.

Nearly 220 people from 14 different countries died, and nearly 1,800 were injured in the bombings of commuter trains. The paths of the extremists behind this attack give a sense of the global nature behind the threat. The attackers came to Spain from Morocco, where some were linked to a May 2003 bombing in Casablanca. After the attacks, some attackers fled to Italy and Belgium. The attackers were associated with al Qaeda and gained support from cells manned by Syrians, Lebanese and Algerians.

"One of the terrorists came to Germany from Egypt and then spent time in France and Italy," Myers said. "And in the home of one of the suspects, law enforcement officials found documents with sketches of New York's Grand Central Station.

"What this tells me is that we're all in this together," he continued. "It's going to take the coordinated and dedicated efforts of every agency in our government and our international partners to be successful."

Myers also discussed professional military education issues. "By my rough calculations, an officer in the U.S. military spends 10 percent of his or her time in education or training programs," he said. "I think it is one of the reasons that our armed forces are among the best."

Military education is important as U.S. officials strive to adapt forces to respond to the threats of the 21st century, the chairman noted. "Innovation leadership and strategic vision are at a premium in this dynamic environment," he said.

Roughly one quarter of the military graduates have served in Afghanistan or Iraq, Myers said. "I know that your unit skills in combat operations weren't the only requirement for success," he said. "You had to build relationships and build trust with the local leadership whether a tribal elder, a cleric or a local government official. It wasn't always obvious who you could talk to, or who you could trust."

The chairman said that during his career he has seen cooperation among the various services and U.S. government agencies increase, "but we still have a long way to go."

"Perhaps it will take legislation like the Goldwater-Nichols Act to create the interagency culture this security environment demands and needs," the chairman said. "Perhaps when one of you is chairman ... you'll be giving a graduation address to the Interagency National Security College."