DOD needs its networks to be unconventional to fight terrorism

'You need a network to defeat a network.'

That concept is key to winning against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations, J-3 of the Joint Staff.

Lute contended that al-Qaida is a networked organization but that 'our organization is still the same as before the war and it is insufficient to defeat the enemy.'

The terror network, Lute said, consists of tangible assets, such as training camps, weapons and personnel, as well as intangible aspects.

'We can kill and capture the enemy and go after the camps,' Lute said today at a breakfast hosted by the Association of the United States Army in Arlington, Va. 'But the intangible parts of the network defy a conventional approach.'

Al-Qaida's intangibles, according to Lute, consist primarily of its use of the Internet as a tool to conduct communications, training, and command and control.

'They have a safe haven on the Internet,' he said. 'No one in the U.S. military has been tasked with the mission of attacking these intangibles. Until we do they will operate with impunity.'

And as long as that situation prevails, Lute warned, the United States and its coalition allies will not be able to vanquish the terrorist enemy.

'The enemy is targeting the political will of this country,' Lute argued. 'He knows he can't beat us on the battlefield and he is OK with that.'

Winning what Lute termed 'the long war,' therefore, is about sustaining 'U.S. and coalition political will for the long haul.'

'The military can provide the staying power, the spare time needed for political and economic processes to take hold,' he said.

But Lute cautioned against expecting an outright military victory. He projected it could take 15 years for the U.S. and its allies to defeat the terrorists.

The presence of large numbers of U.S. personnel in Iraq is not necessary to achieve Lute's vision.

'It's bad news for the U.S. and for Iraq,' he said, 'because it extends the perception of an occupation.' Instead, Lute advocated the use of small teams that advise local operators.

Under Lute's conception of the war against al-Qaida, firepower, mass and maneuver take second place to time, precision and location.

'This war is more about will and perception than firepower,' he said. 'We have concluded that, in that sense, we are not equipped to attack the enemy. We must attack the intangible part of the network if we are going to win.'

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.


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