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New US Defense Strategy Stresses Terrorism and Small Wars

The Pentagon issued a new U.S. National Defense Strategy Thursday, emphasizing the need for the U.S. military, and the entire government, to be prepared to fight global terrorism and related small-scale conflicts like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new strategy updates a document issued in 2005 under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The National Defense Strategy says the U.S. military needs to be prepared to fight a variety of adversaries, current and potential. But the emphasis of the document reflects two themes Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been promoting since he took office a year and a half ago - the need to maintain and improve the ability to fight insurgencies and the need to bring all aspects of government power to bear in the effort, not just the military.

"I firmly believe that in the years ahead, our military is much more likely to engage in asymmetric conflict than conventional conflict against a rising state power," Gates explained at a news conference on Thursday. "We must be ready for both kinds of conflict, and fund the capabilities to do both."

"There is no doubt in my mind that the modernization programs will continue to have strong institutional and congressional support. I just want to make sure that the capabilities we need for the conflicts we're in, and most likely to face in the foreseeable future, also are sustained long-term," he added.

The strategy document identifies al-Qaida and related groups as "a complex and urgent challenge" against which the United States is likely to fight "an extended series of campaigns." It says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "central fronts in the struggle," but are only part of a broader "Long War."

The document says the Untied States must have a "mastery" of the type of warfare such a war requires, just as it has a strong capability in traditional warfare. It says defeating violent extremism is the "central objective" of the United States because it threatens the U.S. "way of life as a free and open society."

The document says the fight is not only military, but also requires "all elements of national power," and partnerships with old and new allies. It says the "prolonged irregular campaign" is a "clash of arms" but also "a war of ideas," and it will require increased U.S. assistance to help a variety of nations keep extremists out through improved security, better governance and increased economic opportunities for their people.

At the same time, the new U.S. National Defense Strategy says the United States must maintain its ability to deter or defeat what it calls "rogue nations," specifically mentioning Iran and North Korea. And it says the U.S. military must be prepared for potential threats from "more powerful states," such as China and Russia. But Secretary Gates says the United States is also working to improve relations with those two countries.

"I don't see either nation as a threat to the United States at this point," he said. "But they both are investing in modernization programs that are of concern."

The strategy document says the U.S. Defense Department "will respond to China's expanding military power, and to the uncertainties over how it might be used." It says that response will involve engagement with China, as well as improving specific U.S. military capabilities to balance China's military modernization. It calls for China to be more transparent about its military spending and intentions.

The document accuses Russia of a "retreat from democracy," and of "increasing economic and political intimidation of its neighbors." It says Russia is not expected "to revert to outright global military confrontation, but the risk of miscalculation or conflict arising out of economic coercion has increased." It endorses U.S. cooperation with Russia on a variety of world issues.

The document also warns of new threats to U.S. national security, including attacks by "disruptive technologies" and efforts to use mass communications to manipulate global public opinion. It also says the increasing world demand for energy and economic development, and even problems related to climate change, could pose security challenges in the coming years.