For a host of reasons, the wars the U.S. Army will actually fight in the 21st century are likely to look more like the small wars in which we have struggled, such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, than like those, such as Desert Storm, in which we have prevailed comparatively easily. The most important way the U.S. Army can prevent as many of these wars as possible, and prevail in the ones that it must actually fight, is by developing the capability to train host-nation security forces.
Economy of Force: Training U.S. Partner Militaries
As the U.S. military begins to draw down after a decade of war, budgetary constraints and a strategic rebalancing to Asia have made economy of force a guiding principle and capacity-building for partner militaries a watchword of U.S. forward defense. To win the small wars that will characterize conflict in the 21st century, the U.S. Army must learn from its experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan to improve its capability to train partner militaries. In Africa, enhancing partner militaries' ability to contain threats before they spread beyond the continent is central to Africom's mission. And the U.S. military's role in supporting counterterrorism efforts in the Philippines provides important lessons for similar missions in the future.
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Across the globe, partner capacity-building through steady-state theater security cooperation plays an increasingly important role in the forward defense posture of the United States. For Africa Command, theater security cooperation is a core function. Africom seeks to build the capacity of African militaries to prevent conflict as well as lead military responses to emerging crises if necessary, thus preventing transnational threats from transcending the African continent.
As the United States military prepares to move beyond Iraq and Afghanistan and develop new strategies, operating concepts and organizations, policymakers are asking whether there are any useful lessons to be learned from the more than decade-long global war on terrorism. Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P) is an instructive case that can provide possible considerations for the future. Any successes OEF-P may have achieved rest on five pillars that warrant closer examination.