Gates stresses need to prepare for unconventional warfare

October 11, 2007|By Julian E. Barnes | Julian E. Barnes,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said the Army needs more money, not just to make up for the losses suffered in Iraq but also for chronic underfunding since the end of the Cold War.

But Gates suggested that rather than using additional money to rebuild conventional war capability, the Army should ensure that it does not again forget the painful lessons it was forced to relearn in Iraq about fighting against an insurgency.

Gates argued in a speech yesterday that after the Vietnam War, the Army "relegated unconventional war to the margins" of its training and spending priorities. The decision seemed wise after the first Persian Gulf War but has not looked as good in the years since, he said.

"It left the service unprepared to deal with the operations that followed: Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans and more recently Afghanistan and Iraq - the consequences and costs of which we are still struggling with today," Gates said in his address to the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Gates said the Army should regain its "traditional edge" in fighting conventional wars. But he emphasized that low-intensity conflicts, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are far more likely to reoccur. America's rivals have learned, Gates said, that the U.S. military can use its technology to crush standing armies but is vulnerable to "asymmetric" threats, such as roadside bombs.

"We can expect that asymmetric warfare will remain the mainstay of the contemporary battlefield for some time," Gates said.

Julian E. Barnes writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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