Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania are the US Military actions for the next year in Balkans.
Since 1980, the United States has fought in seven major combat operations: Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom/Inherent Resolve, Enduring Freedom, Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector, Allied Force, Urgent Fury and Just Cause. Further, major peacekeeping operations occurred in Kosovo and Bosnia, requiring significant forces to conduct said missions. Beyond these combat and peacekeeping missions, the overwhelming majority of U.S. military operations since 1980 have been humanitarian assistance or disaster relief operations, to include those conducted in the homeland. In addition to humanitarian assistance missions, the United States executed multiple non-combatant evacuation missions as well as punitive and global strike missions.
Other continuing efforts include theater security cooperation missions conducted by the combatant commands. Further, the U.S. military conducts continuous strategic deterrence missions with its nuclear capabilities. And intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in support of these operations and other persistent requirements are a constant requirement for national and military leadership. These mission sets, although paramount to U.S. and global security, are outside the realm of contingency operations. It is on these contingency operations, and how the U.S. military can best posture itself to meet the associated demand, which this analysis is focused.
Missions and Regions
CENTCOM: The Middle East remains the most likely location for major military operations. Since 1980, operations in the CENTCOM area of operations (AOR) include the Tanker Wars, Lebanon peacekeeping, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom (with associated persistent obligations such as Northern and Southern Watch), Enduring Freedom and the Multinational Force Observer mission in the Sinai. Today’s ongoing missions also include support to nations who seek protection from adversaries such as Iran. There is no shortage of demand for missile defense capacity in this environment, and investment in and forward presence of missile defense capabilities at the expense of ground combat vehicles can serve to both assure allies and dissuade adversaries.
Other missions in the CENTCOM AOR include global strike or punitive strike operations. These missions range from El Dorado Canyon to the continuing drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since 9/11. Further, counter-terrorism missions remain a paramount concern throughout the Middle East.
AFRICOM: Non-combatant evacuation (NEO) remains a serious concern in areas of the globe where governments are historically weak. Over time, NEO operations have frequently occurred in the unstable West Coast of Africa. In the design of regionally aligned forces, the Army should consider what specific capabilities each region traditionally requires. Forces aligned to AFRICOM should be focused on the execution of a NEO, in lieu of major combat operations on the continent. This does not lend itself to forces optimized for building partnership capacity, but could include forces required to occupy ports and airfields to move citizens off the continent.
PACOM: The necessity for strategic lift in the PACOM area of responsibility is paramount. As in the AFRICOM AOR, the demands of NEO often require aircraft to travel great distances over the Pacific Ocean. Further, the ability to deliver humanitarian assistance to nations in the Pacific such as the Philippines and Indonesia require aircraft that can deliver supplies and equipment over long distances into remote areas. Moreover, from an interagency perspective, aligning USAID stockpiles with the modes of transport in these regions could enhance the immediate effectiveness of HADR operations.