SecAF discusses way ahead in Iraq, Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Darrell Habisch
  • 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
The secretary of the Air Force discussed the importance of Ali Base and the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan during his visit Jan. 31, here.

Speaking to more than 500 Airmen, Secretary Michael Donley focused on the role Ali Base Airmen play amid the critically important events occurring in Southwest Asia.

"You are a microcosm of what's happening during these exciting, challenging times," he said while describing the drawdown of forces in Iraq. "Here you have Army, Navy and Air Force working together and focused on the successful completion of our mission."

The Air Force mission here is based on an excellent roadmap of the future and we have turned a corner in Iraq, Secretary Donley said.
 "We are withdrawing our combat forces in Iraq to meet the December 2011 deadline," he said.

The Air Force footprint in the area of responsibility over the next five years, Secretary Donley said, is under active discussions.

"We are responsibly withdrawing our combat troops now," he said. "If the Iraqi air force wants to partner with us at that time, we stand ready to support any agreement they reach with the United States."

Expanding on that theme, Secretary Donley said that the work occurring in Afghanistan is geared toward the same conclusion seen in Iraq.

"The goal is to put into place a drawdown plan as we have here," he said.

United States officials are helping Iraq and Afghanistan in their efforts to create a more stable security environment, Secretary Donley said.

"It is in our best interests that we assist these countries to meet their needs locally and to rely less on other countries for their own security requirements," he said.

While visiting the soon to be completed air traffic control tower, he discussed the assignment of the tower to the Air Force from the Army Corps of Engineers and the eventual turn-over of the tower to the Iraqi air force, commenting that this is a major milestone toward the goal of a viable Iraqi air force.

During his visit to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, he said additional emphasis will be placed upon the Predator mission in the future.

"Embracing new technologies is what sets us apart from others."

While Secretary Donley dined with Airmen at the dining facility, he said (Airmen) are facing challenges that did not exist fifteen years ago, such as requirements to safeguard cyberspace.

"We need to balance today's work with tomorrow's needs," he said.

He also emphasized Year of the Air Force Family initiative.

"We need to support our families, so they can support you," he said.

Secretary Donley concluded his visit by stressing that senior leadership understands even with all the necessary tools available to generate combat capabilities.

"It's you, the men and women of the Air Force, who make it all work," he said.