Early on 17 January 1991, Operation desert shield came to an end when the air campaign of Operation desert storm began. Task Force normandy, consisting of nine AH-64 Apache helicopters from the U.S. Army's 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st ABN DVN (Air Assault), accompanied by four Air Force MH-53 Pave Low special operations helicopters, flying fast and low, opened fire at 0236 - Baghdad time - on 17 January.
In 100 hours, U.S. and allied ground forces in Iraq and Kuwait decisively defeated a battle-hardened and dangerous enemy. During air and ground operations, U.S. and allied forces destroyed over 3,000 tanks, 1,400 armored personnel carriers, and 2,200 artillery pieces along with countless other vehicles. This was achieved at a cost to the United States of 96 soldiers killed in action, 2 died of wounds, and 105 non-hostile deaths.
It was during the 1980s that the American government moved to create a separate Special Operations Command, and that decision has served us very well in the war on terror. When this conflict began nearly four years ago, President Bush told Congress and the country that, we should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may, he said, "include dramatic strikes, visible on television, and covert operations, secret even when successful." Special ops have been vital to answering some of the fundamental challenges of this war -- fighting the enemy on its own turf; supplying a model for transformation, not only for our military, but also for coalition partners. In addition, special ops are showing the global perspective and the vigilance that will lead us to victory for the cause of freedom.
In Operation Enduring Freedom, the first boots on the ground were special operations forces. As that campaign got underway in late 2001, we heard warnings that the obstacles would be extreme -- and indeed they were. Afghanistan, after all, is a landlocked country with a forbidding, mountainous terrain, and winter was setting in. The enemy force was widely scattered -- but well armed, protected in deep caves, and skilled in guerilla tactics. Added to that was the sheer mileage between our forces and out objective. Into that environment we sent the special operations, and in short order they figured out how to do it all.
Operating by their wits, their intelligence, and their cultural knowledge, they went to the far corners of Afghanistan, built relationships with anti-Taliban forces, engaged enemy holdouts, and designated high-value targets for the bombing campaign. They also linked the technology of the 21st century with the transportation modes of the ancient world -- riding horseback on wooden saddles, painting targets with lasers, and calling in precision air strikes from hundreds of miles away. In the space of about seven weeks, despite all the obstacles we understood going in, the regime was destroyed and the Afghan people were set free.
At this forum you've also discussed some of the ways terrorists and weapons or drug traffickers try to exploit the seams between governments, and how we can close up those seams through better communication and joint operations. This is going to be a critical challenge going forward, as we move against shadowy enemies in many countries and a variety of environments, from urban areas to jungle to desert. 2b1af7f3a8