My first war was Vietnam and my first command at the senior level was in a destroyer based in Pearl Harbor. And I also lived with my family in the Philippines.
As many sailors do, I consider the Asia-Pacific region a home, as well as, to use the military term, an area of responsibility. And I'll come back to that thought in a moment.
Today of course my interest in the region is much broader than it used to be, encompassing not only those nations with Pacific coastlines but also those in Central and South Asia as well. And as you might imagine, I spend a good bit of my time focused on our operations in Afghanistan, in our relationships with our partners in India and Pakistan.
Nothing could be more critical, in my view, than these relationships right now, especially as we continue to ramp up our military presence in Afghanistan and begin to improve security in Kandahar and across the south. It has been a bloody few days of late, and you've do doubt seen the news.
More than 20 coalition soldiers have been killed in action in just the last three days, four of them just this morning. And today there was a major incident at a wedding where many civilians were killed. And our thoughts and our prayers go out to their loved ones. We grieve for them and with them.
Sadly, there will be more casualties. Of that I am certain. The Taliban is feeling the pressure already imposed upon it by the surge, but I have every expectation that they will continue to resist. We must, ourselves, resist the temptation to lose heart, because I'm also certain of the strength in our strategy and in the leadership we have in place over there.
We will succeed in Afghanistan. We will prevent that country from ever becoming a safe haven again, but it will be a slow, messy and often deadly business and it will require the heavy lifting not only of the United States military, or in fact anyone's military, but rather the work and the worry of all our allies, partners and friends in the region.
We all have a stake in a stable Afghanistan, in particular those of us who have a stake in a stable Asia-Pacific region, those of us who live in this area of responsibility. But what are the responsibilities of a Pacific nation and how do we rise to meet them in a time of such incredible change and uncertainty?
How do we ensure that we properly align our mutual security interests in the region with the economic interdependence that globalization has thrust upon us? Well, I'm no economist, and those of my friends who knew me back when I was on that destroyer will tell you they didn't think I was much of a big thinker - (laughter) - but I do have a few ideas I'd like to share, at least from the perspective of the American armed forces because, as Secretary Gates said recently, the United States is a Pacific nation and it will remain a Pacific power.