The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a snapshot of the width and breadth of the U.S. military’s commitment around the globe during a Pentagon press conference Aug. 28.
In his presentation, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford also emphasized that troops are in these areas as part of a larger whole-of-government strategic approach to the world.
Dunford discussed the American military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where 28,000 American service members remain on watch along the 38th parallel in Korea. “Our priority in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is supporting the State Department-led diplomatic and economic efforts aimed at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said.
American troops stationed in Korea demonstrate the nation’s commitment to the U.S.-South Korean alliance and deter North Korea from adventurism, the chairman said. The United States is also conducting air and sea operations to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolutions aimed at getting North Korea to change its ways. All these are done with partners and allies, he said.
The United States is conducting operations across the command — which covers 51 percent of the globe — are aimed at preserving the rules-based international order that has allowed the region to peacefully grow and prosper, he said.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command oversees programs to train, advise and assist forces in internal security, counter-narcotics and counterterrorism operations, the chairman said.
The chairman shifted focus to U.S. Central Command where American forces are in contact, seeking to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and training Afghan forces to protect and police their own country. Central Command also works to counter Iranian malign influence around the region and deter the leaders of that country from making provocative moves.
There are about 14,000 U.S. personnel deployed to Afghanistan in the counterterrorism operations and in NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.
“Our primary mission remains countering terrorist threats to the United States,” Dunford said. “Our forces, alongside forces from 40 NATO and partner nations, are also training, advising and assisting more than 300,000 Afghan forces who are responsible for security in Afghanistan.”
The coalition committed to the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria consists of the United States and 76 other nations. “In Syria, 2,000 U.S. and additional coalition forces are working to enable the 50,000 Syrian Democratic Forces in clearing the remainder of ISIS from the Euphrates River valley and in stabilizing those areas that have been cleared of ISIS,” the general said.
Across the border, American forces work with Iraqi security forces to ensure the success they have had is enduring.
Russian actions in Crimea and the Ukraine have caused consternation across Europe, and U.S. European Command is deeply involved in reassuring allies and deterring Russia. American forces have deployed to the Baltic Republics and Poland where they work with allies on exercises to increase interoperability. “This year we have conducted 13 joint exercises in Europe in addition to a wide range of service specific training and engagement,” Dunford said.
In U.S. Africa Command, there are 7,200 U.S. forces supporting thousands upon thousands of African partners in their struggle against terror groups like al-Qaida, Boko Haram and offshoots of ISIS. “Our efforts include developing security forces in Somalia, countering ISIS in Libya and supporting partners in the Sahel and the Lake Chad regions,” Dunford said.
The chairman shifted to U.S. Southern Command where American military leaders work with allies to address regional challenges and threats. Transnational criminal gangs, narcotics and people smugglers and the refugee crisis around Venezuela concern all in the hemisphere.
“Finally, here at home, the U.S. Northern Command has 1,600 DoD personnel and 33 aircraft working to suppress wildfires in the Western states, while more than 2,000 Guardsmen are supporting [the Department of] Homeland Security on the southern border,” he said. “The Northern Command also provides around the clock ballistic missile defense, while Americans and Canadians from the North American Aerospace Defense Command defend our air space.”
And, as worldwide operations and exercises continue, U.S. forces must adapt and innovate, the general said.
“Our efforts include a series of globally integrated exercises and experiments to help shape the force we will need to fight and win tomorrow,” he said.