[QODLink]
Americas
US advised to avoid land wars
Defence secretary underscores importance of Iraq and Afghan lessons but cautions against future involvement.
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2011 09:55 GMT
Gates, who has said he will leave office this year, predicts that future conflicts will look radically different [AFP]

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has warned that the US should avoid future land wars such as those it has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan but not forget the difficult lessons learned in those conflicts.

Gates was chosen as defence secretary by George Bush, the former president, and given the job of rescuing the military from what many saw as an unwinnable war in Iraq by Barack Obama, the incumbent president.

In Depth
  Video: Al Jazeera Interviews Robert Gates
  Profile: Robert Gates

"In my opinion, any future defence secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined," Gates said in a speech to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, in New York state, on Friday.

As a result of the last 10 years at war, West Point cadets are joining a force that is "resilient but also stressed and tired", Gates said during what is expected to be his last address at the training ground for future army officers.

"The army must prepare itself for the complex threats it will face in the future, including terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction, outlier nations capable of nuclear warfare and the modern militaries being assembled in Russia and China," he said.

Today's army is filled with soldiers who have had "little opportunity to do more than catch their breath and then get ready for the next deployment',' Gates said.

Gates, who has said he will leave office this year, but has not announced when, laid out his vision for the future of the US army as it regroups after a decade of long and repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gates said conflicts will require Navy and Air Force engagements, not head-on clash of big land forces [AFP]

"The army has made a painful war-driven transition from a force designed to face off against other large militaries to a more nimble service that trains other armies and takes on nation-building even as it hunts insurgents," Gates said.

"It must better prepare itself to continue to face such unconventional threats and unorthodox duties in the future."

Gates has made many decisions regarding the nation's 1.1 million-strong ground force since he took over the senior Pentagon role in December 2006.

He came in facing an escalating war in Iraq that was requiring more forces.

Over time he sent thousands more troops into Iraq to a peak of nearly 180,000 and was forced to extend soldiers' deployment tours from 12 months to 15 months.

As the Iraq war began to wind down, he and the Obama administration ordered another surge this time into Afghanistan, where they are battling entrenched uprisings in the south and east.

Future high-end conflicts involving the US military are more likely to be fought with air and sea power instead of large ground forces such as the one that invaded Iraq in 2003 and the one in Afghanistan, he said.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is set to hear genocide charges for targeting ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims.
'I'm dying anyway, one piece at a time' said Steve Fobister, who suffers from disabilities caused by mercury poisoning.
The world's newest professional sport comes from an unlikely source: video games.
join our mailing list