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The next big war will be ‘very different’, says the US Secretary of Defense

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin watches during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken following a meeting after the US announced the withdrawal of all its troops from Afghanistan on September 11, 2021 at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium 14 April 2021. REUTERS / Johanna Geron / Pool

The United States needs to prepare for a potential future conflict that is very reminiscent of the “old wars”

; that have long devoured the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Friday in his first important political speech.

Austin called for leveraging technological advances and better integration of military operations globally to “understand faster, decide faster, and act faster.”

“The way we are fighting for the next big war will look very different than we fought with the last ones,” Austin said during a trip to Hawaii-based US Pacific Command.

Austin did not explicitly mention rivals such as China or Russia. But his remarks came as the United States launched an unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan on the orders of President Joe Biden, aimed at ending America’s longest war and resetting Pentagon priorities.

Austin acknowledged that he had spent “most of the last two decades executing the last of the old wars.”

Critics say that withdrawal from Afghanistan will not end the Asian country’s internal conflict, extinguish the threat of terrorism or make the experience of 20 years of war against insurgency irrelevant as militant organizations such as Islamic State spread around the world.

Austin’s remarks did not appear to prescribe specific actions or predict any specific conflict. Instead, he seemed to outline broad, somewhat vague goals of operating the Pentagon under the Biden administration.

“We can not predict the future,” Austin said. “So what we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities – all woven together in a networked way that is so believable, so flexible and so formidable that it will give an opponent a break.”

Preventing a conflict would mean creating “benefits for us and dilemmas for them,” he said.

U.S. responses could be indirect, he said, outlining a scenario where cyber warfare could be used “to respond to a maritime security incident hundreds of miles away.”

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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