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Asia-Pacific Militaries Facing New Security Challenges


Army commanders from several dozen Asia-Pacific nations say their Armed Forces are expected to take on new tasks, which are straining their normal capabilities. The military chiefs are seeking to address how to meet these growing challenges at meetings in Bangkok.

Army chiefs from more than 30 nations say their forces are under increasing pressure to carry out missions beyond their traditional responsibility of national defense.

Several commanders made that assessment during the weeklong meeting in Bangkok of two forums: the Asia-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference and the Pacific Armies Management Seminar.

Australia's army chief, Lt. General Peter Leahy, said that armies are now expected to fight international terrorism, transnational crime, and also help victims of natural disasters and civil conflicts.

"We are required to face a whole range of challenges. Where they used to be in some way sequential," he said. "What we're seeing is that now they are presenting themselves at the same time. And what we have got to be able to do as a region, as individual armies, is to be flexible and adaptable."

Mr. Leahy notes the most recent example was the military response to December's Indian Ocean tsunami. Only the military had the unique capabilities to respond quickly and effectively to a disaster of such proportions and more than a half dozen countries sent troops to deliver emergency aid to victims and set up transport facilities for aid groups.

Thailand's army chief, General Pravit Wongsuwan, says that as the pace and variety of military missions increase, the region's armies will have to adapt to new situations. General Pravit says each country will have to make different adjustments because of differences in their budgets and the capabilities of their forces and because of potentially different threats. He says greater cooperation in intelligence and high-technology communications are two possible solutions.

The commanders say many lessons were learned from the tsunami relief effort, including the need for their militaries to develop compatible systems of communication and logistics.

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