WASHINGTON, DC (Amaani Lyle) – While the scale of the homeland security threat has diminished, overseas threats to U.S. interests continue to grow, the military’s top special operations leaders said on Capitol Hill yesterday.
Michael D. Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee that al-Qaida still retains sanctuaries in remote areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, with burgeoning sects in Syria, North Africa and the Sahel.
“The threat continues to evolve,” Lumpkin said. “We must maintain pressure on terrorist organizations.”
Despite austere fiscal conditions, Lumpkin said, the Defense Department has provided counterinsurgency training and humanitarian assistance in Colombia, not only bringing security and prosperity to the region, but also helping it emerge as an expert in regional security.
Similar opportunities exist in Africa and the Middle East, Lumpkin reported.
“Our support to the French in [Africa’s Sahel region] has been critical in stemming the tide of extremism in Mali,” he noted. “Modest support to [the African Union Mission in Somalia troops in] the Horn of Africa have helped to reverse the trajectory of [terrorist group] al-Shabab. In Yemen, we have had successes, but require a more robust and sustained effort to turn the tide of [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s] expansion.”
McRaven said special operations will continue to meet priority demands globally, to prepare for current and future conflicts, and to take of its people, despite fiscal turbulence.
“Globally, we are developing plans to better serve the geographic combatant commanders who, owing to the past 12 years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, have gone under-resourced with [special operations] forces,” the admiral said.
McRaven stressed the importance of maintaining readiness as the United States and its partners continue to sustain forces around the world, with people in 84 countries and 7,000 people deployed globally.
The future of special operations will be in helping to build partner capacity with willing nations who share U.S. interests, McRaven said.
“No nation alone can stem the rise of extremism,” he added.