News: Nations gather in Atlanta for symposium
Atlanta - Military representatives from the United States and 19 nations gathered for the first time here to discuss international terrorism, share experiences and build lasting relationships in a region that stretches from the Africa through the Middle East to Central Asia.
The conference, which was hosted by Third U.S. Army, headquartered at nearby Ft. McPherson, Ga., ended on Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, commanding general of Third U.S. Army and the land forces that comprise the U.S. Army Central Command, told the attendees, "We fight an enemy [terrorism] that threatens our way of life, and the future of our world."
He hailed the gathering of soldiers, academia, and diplomats as representing a diversity of economic status, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, heritages, languages and religions. Third U.S. Army is responsible for an area that includes 27 nations, 26 ethnic groups, 12 major languages and seven major religions among its 522 million people. The area includes Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, a number of Central Asian nations that were former Soviet Republics, and the nations of the Horn of Africa.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker also attended the three-day symposium with their international counterparts to collaborate on topics concerning Army operations and the current war on terrorism.
Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, nations such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most recently Egypt and Jordan have all experienced a form of terrorism. The generals saw this symposium as a forum for regional exchanges among the participating nations in order to express different points of view and establish and enhance working relationships with the region to counter terrorism in the present and immediate future.
"We have to arrest the current dangers that we face to direct terrorist attacks," said Schoomaker during his comments to the foreign army leaders. "This must be done not only militarily but through intelligence and coordination."
"We need to look way beyond what we are facing today toward our future where we deal with the underline challenges with the problems that we have," he added "That is really the big issue before us, and this is why we get together and develop the relationships required to be able to deal with the kind of things that we need to move forward."
During the three-day meeting a number of issues were discussed in a series of panels. Every panel consistent of three or four subject matter experts from a variety of nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and the United States in a number of topics dealing with terrorism, theater security cooperation and border security.
Whitcomb stated that cooperation between bordering countries is very important in order to ensure the best security possible.
"This is a common problem in all countries," he said. "Outfitting our armies and
security forces with the right equipment and working with each other will help us protect our borders from terrorist and drug smugglers."
Representatives from both Afghanistan and Pakistan then discussed their continued working relationship to secure the long, rugged border between the two nations.
Meeting between our countries [Pakistan and Afghanistan] are at times tough but there we have a mutual goal to control the border to stop Al-Qaeda, said Afghanistan Gen. Bismullah Mohammadi, Afghan National Army chief of staff.
"We are working together to solve this problem."
The symposium also had its lighter moments as LFS participants got the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of Atlanta with a visit to the Georgia aquarium. The group also enjoyed a special dinner with guest speaker Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. These cultural events helped bond the group of military leaders beyond just their common goal of combating global terrorism.
"This has been an incredible experience to learn these different cultures," said Qatari Col. Mohammed Al-Kaabi, Qatari commander director. "I hope this continues to grow in the future."
Throughout the three-day symposium other topics such as the military's role in humanitarian assistance, and the affect the information age has enabled terrorist cells to communication on a global network through the internet.
Djibouti Col. Osman Soubagle was just one of many in attendance who spoke about the positive impact the symposium has had on him.
"The world and our common enemy continue to change, and we must learn from each others experience," he said. "This gathering is a great step in the right direction to counter terrorism and defeat it."
Whitcomb stressed the importance of patience to those in attendance in order to win this long fight.
"It's not going to be easy because we are fighting a very crafty enemy," said Whitcomb.
"The global war on terror may go on for 10 to 20 years, but Soldier to Soldier we have to come together as partners to win this fight."