Lt. Gen. Charles Wald, a native of Minot and a graduate of North Dakota State University, was in charge of drawing up the aerial combat plans for eliminating the al Qaeda and Taliban threats in Afghanistan after 9/11. The initial attack on Oct. 7, 2001, destroyed much of the capabilities of the enemies of the U.S. and clearly put them on the defensive. The daily poundings from the air caused so much confusion and chaos for the Taliban that they were in disarray. Following the defeat of the Taliban at Mazar-i-Sharif, on Nov. 9, the Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan ended and Wald was awarded the position of deputy chief of staff for the Air and Space Operations in Washington, D.C.
AOC is the senior agency of the Air Force that provides command and control of the air and space operations. In December of 2002, Wald became deputy commander of USEUCOM, the U.S. European Command, located in Stuttgart, Germany. USEUCOM is responsible for all of the U.S. forces operating across 91 countries in Europe, Africa, Russia, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and most of the Atlantic Ocean.
On Jan. 1, 2003, Wald was promoted to full general, becoming the third 4-star general to come from North Dakota, preceded by only Harold Johnson and David Jones. Wald retired from the Air Force on July 1, 2006, and took the position of vice president for the L-3 Communications Corporation (later renamed L-3 Technologies) headquartered in Washington, D.C.
L-3 is a company that supplies command and control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems and products, avionics, ocean products, training devices and services, instrumentation, aerospace, and navigation products. Its customers included the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, United States Intelligence Community, NASA, aerospace contractors, and commercial telecommunications and wireless customers.
In 2009, Wald resigned his position at L-3 when he was offered the position of director and senior advisor to the aerospace and defense industry for Deloitte, a multinational corporation that offers advice and consulting assistance regarding audits, financial matters, risk assessment, taxes and legal matters. At about the time Wald was brought aboard, the company began moving into defense matters and hired a number of former CIA agents.
Wald's work with the Department of Defense was considered so valuable that a reading of his contributions was put into the Congressional Record on Nov. 9, 2018, at the time of his retirement from Deloitte. It is stated in the report, "he is responsible for providing senior leadership in strategy and relationships with the U.S. DOD ... and he is a subject matter specialist in weapons procurement and development, counter terrorist, and international energy security policy."
Wald resigned to become president of the research and consulting firm Jones Group International. Under Wald's leadership, JGI specializes in work involving the aerospace and defense industry, alternative and renewable energy sources, counter terrorism, energy dependence and our lack of energy security, how to lead in challenging times, national and defense strategy, and strategic planning.
Because of Wald's expertise in so many critical issues facing this country and the world, I longed to be able to interview him about a number of important issues. Fortunately, we share a good friend, Dale Brown, the National Hall of Fame college basketball coach. Brown put in a good word to Wald about me and the general generously granted that interview on May 26.
Wald's responses about critical issues
(Answers have been paraphrased.)
Withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan: Wald believes that the American withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan is the right thing to do
U.S. relationship with Israel: Israel is extremely important to the U.S. and, for the most part, their interests and our interests are the same. There are a number of hostile forces in the countries surrounding Israel (i.e. Hezbollah and Hamas), and these forces are also hostile to the U.S. One of the objectives of Iran is to destroy Israel, and Iran is also a threat to the U.S. if they are able to produce a nuclear bomb. Israel shares important military intelligence with us and they have never asked us for troops to help defend them because they have been able to do that themselves.
U.S. relationship with Iran: Iran is the biggest immediate threat to the U.S. The leadership in that country will never negotiate "in good faith" with us. They look at the U.S. as the big Satan and lead chants of "death to America," and they continuously look for ways of wiping Israel off the face of the earth. In the longer term both Russia and China pose a much larger threat. The biggest thing we need to do is prevent Iran from making a nuclear bomb. The acquisition of the bomb is a game changer, because not only do they pose a threat to the U.S. and Israel, but also to the entire Middle East. Once they have the bomb, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will also insist that they need nuclear weapons to defend themselves. Wald believes that returning to the deal we made with Iran in 2015 would be a mistake.
U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia: This is a touchy situation, because when the crown prince came to power, he was only 33-years old, and very immature. His biggest mistake was ordering the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist. This caused international condemnation from many Western governments, in particular, the U.S. There are a large number of extremist Muslim terrorist organizations in Saudi Arabia, and the current Saudi government has attempted to root them out and minimize their effectiveness. This is very important to the U.S. because many of these groups are intent on killing Americans. All of this presents a difficult situation for the U.S. because we have a need to show condemnation of the action of the crown prince, and perhaps even take punitive actions against the country, while at the same time we need to continue to have friendly relations with the government so that they remain steadfast in rooting out the extremist groups that are bent on destroying America.
Domestic terrorism: In many ways, this is the most difficult form of terrorism to guard against because these people are already in the country, often they act as "lone wolves" or in concert with a small close-knit group of people. and frequently they have integrated themselves into society. Unless they are on a watch list, their activities are not monitored.
International terrorism: Islamic extremism is now, and most likely will be in the future, the biggest source of international terrorism, especially in the Mideast and northern Africa. The best way to counter this is by working closely with pro-American leaders in those countries who are aware that these extremists are a major threat to that country's stability.
Energy independence: The U.S. dependence on oil weakens international leverage, undermines foreign policy objectives, and entangles America with unstable or hostile regimes. Continuing a heavy reliance on oil is also a security risk. For these reasons, it is important that we develop alternative ways of producing energy. Fossil fuels are also one of the biggest factors contributing to climate change.
Climate change: This is one of the most important issues facing the world in the foreseeable future, and beyond. Wald said that with the rise in temperature over the years, the melting of the glaciers will raise the levels of the oceans so that ultimately, many of the coastal cities will literally disappear. In the short term, Wald believes the continent that faces the biggest challenge is Africa, where already, because of lack of rainfall brought on by global warming, there is a serious shortage of food.
For many of the residents and tribesman in Africa, the only way to get more food and water is to acquire more land. Most often, that land belongs to someone else who is not willing to give it up. This leads to tribal warfare which makes the existing governments unstable. There are also many exotic minerals, found only in Africa, that have essential military and civilian applications, and if the existing governments are unstable, these needed minerals may become unattainable.
Biggest military regret: Not killing or capturing Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden early in the attacks in Afghanistan.
Most satisfying award: Wald has received scores on awards and honors throughout his career in the military, civilian life and in football. They were awarded for his action overseas, the U.S., college, and even high school. The one that he said meant the most to receive was the Superior Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State, and those few who receive it, consider it a special honor.
“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your comments, corrections, or suggestions for columns to the Eriksmoens at email@example.com.