U.S. Forces Carry out many Humanitarian Missions

By David McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – While Iraq dominates the headlines, the U.S. military is engaged in security, humanitarian and training missions across the globe, in addition to continuing its operations in the struggle against terrorism, a senior Army officer says.

In an August 23 Pentagon press briefing, U.S. Army Brigadier General Michael Barbero, deputy director of regional operations, highlighted these missions and updated journalists on the U.S.-led coalition’s support of the Iraqi government.

In Afghanistan, Barbero reported that recent weeks have seen an increase in operational activities for both NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and coalition forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.  U.S. troops participate in both missions, he said, which have moved into the country’s restive southeast provinces, where remnants of the Taliban remain active.  (See related article.)

In Ethiopia, he said, U.S. service members assigned to the U.S. Central Command’s Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa are providing disaster relief to flooding victims.  The U.S. Navy’s engineering and construction battalions, known as the “Seabees,” have been deployed to Dire Dawa, where they built temporary shelters for 6,000 locals displaced by the disaster.  A medical mobile training team also was dispatched to provide medical treatment and support.  (See related article.)

In Lebanon, the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently completed the assisted departure of nearly 15,000 American citizens from Beirut when fighting broke out between Hezbollah and Israel.  As these naval and marine units return to the Persian Gulf, he said, the U.S. European Command would oversee the military’s support for ongoing humanitarian aid operations to help the Lebanese people rebuild.  (See related article.)

In East Timor, Barbero said, the U.S. Pacific Command is sponsoring a visit from the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, which is providing free medical care for communities in need.  East Timor is the Mercy’s most recent stop in a tour of the region, where it has treated more than 35,000 patients, performed more than 800 surgeries and filled more than 43,000 prescriptions to date in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia.  (See related article.)

While the media focuses on Iraq, these and other missions demonstrate that the U.S. military remains able to meet emerging international security challenges, Barbero said.


Barbero also reported continued progress in Baghdad, where U.S.-led coalition forces are supporting “Operation Together Forward” – the Iraqi government’s initiative to stop attacks from insurgents, terrorists and militia groups engaged in sectarian violence.  (See related article.)

Securing Baghdad is central to Iraq’s future, he said, because 90 percent of the sectarian violence occurs within a 48-kilometer radius of the capital.  He also observed that 82 percent of all violent incidents nationwide are confined to just four of the country’s 18 provinces, further indicating the success achieved by the Iraqi government to date.  (See related article.) 

Thanks to a strategy of targeted search operations, community policing and public works projects in Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods, the general reported, violent incidents between Iraq’s Shi’a and Sunni Muslim communities have dropped steadily in the past five weeks. The past three weeks have seen similar declines in attacks on key infrastructure, he added. 

But challenges remain, he said, most significantly dealing with interference from Iran, which Barbero said is actively training, funding, and equipping militant groups causing violence in Iraq, and from Syria, which he said is not doing enough to control infiltration of militants from across its borders into Iraq.  

“While it is still early, there are positive indications of the effectiveness of this operation,” he said, later adding that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the progress of Iraqi and coalition troops.

For more information, see Iraq Update.