The 21st century U.S. military is not quite shaping up to be the all ultra-modern fighting force originally envisioned by the Bush administration. The reason why involves unique operating conditions inside Afghanistan for American troops.
Back before the terrorist attacks of September 11, talk of transforming the U.S. military focused on costly, high-tech improvements, new fighter jets, new armored vehicles, new ships, and the like.
But conditions inside Afghanistan have changed all that. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joked about transformation with reporters as he showed them a recent photo of U.S. special forces operating in Afghanistan with some unconventional transportation "assets."
RUMSFELD: "It's the Rumsfeld transformation. The ones in the light camouflage garb are in fact American special forces.
REPORTER: "On horseback?"
RUMSFELD: "On horseback in Afghanistan. And there is probably the first cousin to my donkey Moe. And that is how they are moving equipment."
Mr. Rumsfeld said such pack animals are proving extremely useful. "They pack them, heavily pack them, and move equipment, ammunition, food," he said.
He said military airdrop supply orders for U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also included some fairly unusual items for modern-day combatants. "Literally, I have seen drop orders that included saddles, bridles, and horsefeed," he said.
Asked what this says about how war is fought in Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld pays tribute to the American soldiers operating there, calling them terrific young people.