By Jennifer Rizzo
The U.S. military plans to deploy specialized Army units around the globe as part of an effort to build worldwide military partnerships, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.
The first units will be deployed to Africa Command next year. These units, known as brigade combat teams, will specialize in the culture and language of the geographic places in which they are operating.
"Those security cooperation capabilities and skill sets once considered the exclusive province of the special operations community will need to be built up and retained across the force and among civilians," said Panetta. "In particular, it is critical that we invest in language training and cultural expertise throughout the Department (of Defense)."
Panetta made the announcement during a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace that outlined a department-wide initiative to build international partnerships by increasing the security capabilities of nations in every part of the globe.
"In the past, the United States often assumed the primary role of defending others. We built permanent bases. We deployed large forces across the globe to fixed positions. We often assumed that others were not willing or capable of defending themselves," said Panetta. "Our new strategy recognizes that this is not the world we live in anymore."
Listing a myriad of examples, Panetta said the United States will continue counterterrorism work in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Asia; will work with partners in the Persian Gulf to counter Iran's threat, will invest in missile defense with allies in Northeast Asia to challenge North Korea's threat, and will work with nations in the Western Hemisphere to tackle the problem of drug trafficking.
"I want to see the military retain the hard-won capability to train and advise foreign security forces in support of stability operations like in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I also want us to become better at working with more capable security partners on our shared security interests," he said.