NEW YORK– Aerospace assets will be critical to the success of stepped-up operations in Afghanistan – from delivering troops to ferrying logistical support to providing lifesaving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to ground forces, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn told industry executives here Wednesday.

Lynn told several hundred Aerospace and Defense Conference attendees that he firmly supports President Barack Obama’s new force commitment and revised strategy in Afghanistan, announced last night at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

“The situation there is serious,” Lynn said. “New terrorist attacks against our homeland are being planned there now, including a recent plot disrupted by American authorities. Those facts compel us to act.”

Lynn said the 30,000 additional U.S. troops to join the fight in Afghanistan will support the overarching goal there: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent terrorists from threatening the United States and its allies.
”We must deny al-Qaida a safe haven,” he said. “We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum, especially in the population centers of Afghanistan. And we must strengthen Afghanistan’s government and security forces.”

Emphasizing that the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan isn’t open-ended, Lynn said the troop surge will speed up the process of transferring security responsibility to Afghan security forces. That, he said, will set conditions to begin a drawdown of combat forces in the summer of 2011.
Lynn emphasized the importance of the contributions the aerospace industry is making toward that goal, despite a particularly challenging operational environment.

“In a landlocked nation with few workable roads, helicopter lift and cargo aircraft make possible almost everything we do — from dumps of food, fuel and ammunition to maneuver support,” he told the group. “It’s hard to imagine a more difficult place to support combat operations.”

Aerospace capabilities are directly supporting warfighters, he said, providing combat air patrols and search-and-rescue teams, and ISR platforms keep watch over troops 24/7 in Afghanistan’s most remote corners.

Much of this enhanced ISR capability didn’t even exist when the conflict in Afghanistan began, Lynn noted. He credited investments in technology and manpower that now provide commanders actionable intelligence in minutes.
Lynn applauded the industry’s partnership with the Defense Department in its quest to provide these and other new capabilities that directly support warfighters on the ground.

“Without question, our offense against the Taliban and al-Qaida depends on air power,” he said.

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