A packed crowd gathered at the March 16th SDMAC breakfast meeting to listen to General James Mattis, USMC, Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command. The General's remarks focused upon operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
An overall observation made by Mattis about the enemy is that their commitment to violence and mayhem cannot be underestimated. "You don't patronize them [the enemy] as they're committed to destroying our way of life," stated Mattis. "They cannot win in any conventional type of warfare, so they continue to employ terrorist tactics of random civilian bombings and violence against civilians. This allows them to expand their range of targets while we work hard to limit ours." Per Mattis, we are fighting a violent political campaign against a determined and ruthless enemy.
General Mattis remarked that the recent major voting turnout in Iraq constituted a major statement by the Iraqi people and signaled the beginning of democracy in that country.
Al Aqbar Province, formerly one of Iraq's most dangerous places, is now the centerpiece of a highly successful effort by the Marine Corps.
In Afghanistan, Mattis commented that we are now a major presence there and are operating with a frequently changing mixture of UN coalition forces. With Taliban and Al Queda alliances fracturing, there is reason for optimism. Stated Mattis "We are building human bonds with Afghan people. Creating the trust necessary to forge those bonds makes for a very dangerous situation for our troops." Continued Mattis, "The great self discipline required to protect and avoid contact with innocent civilians while under hostile fire will pay great dividends in the long run, but it is very stressful to our troops."
General Mattis indicated the Pakistanis are sustaining a successful offensive on the Taliban safe-haven areas in the northwest frontier despite heavy snowfalls. This is causing additional disruption of Taliban forces and alliances. Per Mattis, "Aggressive actions by the Pakistani Taliban is casting unfavorable light on the Afghan Taliban effort and is undermining their effectiveness."