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Aspin Sketches 'Two-Conflict' Battle Strategy


BRUSSELS — Defense Secretary Les Aspin outlined the new American "two-conflict" strategy to a wide audience of diplomats, political leaders and security specialists here Sunday.

After a six-month "start-from-scratch" study, "we concluded that the United States must field military forces that can fight and win two major regional conflicts, and nearly simultaneously," Aspin told the annual meeting of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"If our forces are fighting in one major regional conflict," he said, "we don't want a second potential aggressor to be tempted to launch an attack somewhere else in the world because he believes the United States can't respond to an attack on an ally or friend.

"We can and we will."

Calling it a "win-win" strategy, Aspin said American forces would be made more mobile and given the ability to "halt an invasion or stop an aggressor during the crucial first phase of battle."

Toward that end, he said the United States will add new military airlift and sea-lift capability and position more U.S. military resources in Southwest Asia, the Pacific and Europe.

And instead of reducing U.S. Marine Corps numbers to 159,000 as previously planned, Aspin said the Marines will be maintained at 174,000 to provide a ready-duty expeditionary force.

Aspin said the United States will reduce its troops in Europe to 100,000 by the end of the decade.

But he added, "European security is American security."

Aspin warned that Europe must contribute its share toward defense.

"We can't take public support for a U.S. troop presence in Europe for granted," he said. "It hinges on how relevant NATO (the 16-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization) remains in the new era. And to remain relevant, NATO's forces must be able to respond to the challenges of the new era.

"These include the challenges of peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. But NATO forces also must be prepared to deter and defeat aggression against Western interests beyond the NATO boundaries."

Aspin said he expects that about 50,000 U.N. troops would be needed to enforce a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, if one is achieved in the stalled Geneva negotiations.

But he warned that Congress would not authorize U.S. troops for Bosnia unless the allies provided at least 50% of the total force.

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