A Frank Discussion of Problems in the Middle East

July 12, 2012
By Rita Boland

The U.S Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility is more tumultuous than ever, and the military leaders overseeing U.S. efforts there actively work to mitigate the major disruptive factors. "The Sunni/Shi'a conflict is our biggest challenge," Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, USA, chief of staff, CENTCOM, stated today during his keynote address at TechNet Land Forces South in Tampa, Florida. That friction plays out in the violence of the region. In particular, CENTCOM is focusing on deterring Iran and countering the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The top three problems that keep the CENTCOM commander, Gen. James Mattis, USMC, up at night are Iran, Iran and Iran.

Iran's malignant intents destabilize and undercut other governments in the area. Gen. Horst called CENTCOM's region dangerous and unstable. The command is moving to a more forward deployed presence to combat not only violence on land but piracy threats along major trading waterways. And although Israel technically falls under U.S. European Command's jurisdiction, CENTCOM officials have to consider potential actions by the nation. For example, what if Israel launched an attack on an Iranian nuclear site?

Planning has its own challenges. Many assumptions in the theater campaign plan for the CENTCOM area, such as Egypt remaining a stable ally, have been waylaid by the Arab Spring. Strong connections are growing between the United States and Middle Eastern countries, including with Jordan. Gen. Horst said Jordan will be pivotal in the future of Syria. Despite all the situations that demand attention in the region, Afghanistan remains the main concern of CENTCOM.

The backbone of the command's accomplishments comes from its J-6 department, Gen. Horst stated. Cyber attacks are relentless on the command's information, from both internal and external enemies. Key pieces of the J-6 side are the CENTCOM Partner Network and the Joint Cyber Center. The former establishes an enduring partner network. Leaders expect it to facilitate the sharing of information bilaterally and in special communities of interest. The Joint Cyber Center accommodates intelligence support, operations and plans and integrates the three lanes of cyberspace operations.

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