New warfare plan to bark instead of bite

Lt. Gen. Gilmary Hostage (left) shakes hands with Lt. Gen. Gary L. North as Maj. Gen. William l. Holland watches during ceremonies last week at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. Hostage, who will direct the air war over Iraq and Afghanistan, said a new U.S.

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE -- A new military approach in Afghanistan might mean buzzing rather than bombing the enemy, according to the general taking over the air war there.

It's known as irregular warfare, designed to protect local people and then enlist their help defeating Taliban insurgents, Air Force Lt. Gen. Gilmary Hostage said Thursday.

"The first thing we do is fly overhead, and the bad guys know airpower is in place and oftentimes that's enough. That ends the fight, they vamoose," said Hostage, who will direct the air battle over Iraq and Afghanistan. "The A-10 has a very distinct sound. The cannon on an A-10 is horrifically capable and our adversaries know it. When they hear the sound of an A-10, they scatter."

Hostage said the Air Force easily can drop bombs with pinpoint accuracy. But in some cases, it might be better to fly over enemy forces with noisy warplanes to get them to disperse first, then try more force if that doesn't work.

Hostage said he supports the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is shifting the philosophy toward irregular warfare.

"The challenge with irregular warfare is to empower and enable the people to the point where they don't allow the adversary to hide in amongst them," Hostage said. "It really is a long-term effort."

"In a circumstance where I'm only able to blow things up, I'm pretty limited in what I can do," Hostage said. "If I use graduated measures, then there are many things I can do to affect the situation."

Hostage, 54, took the job of overseeing Air Forces for the U.S. Central Command last week. He was heading Thursday from Shaw Air Force Base in central South Carolina to his new post at al-Udeid Air Base in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, the headquarters of all U.S. air operations in the Middle East.

He is returning to familiar territory, having served as the commander of U.S. forces stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in 2001 and 2002. Most recently, he was the No. 2 in charge of U.S. Air Forces in the Pacific.