"In 2001, the U.S. military, aided by indigenous forces, swiftly toppled a Taliban government responsible for providing sanctuary to al Qaeda. In 2003, the Iraqi military disintegrated in the face of a devastating demonstration of American power that ended the regime of Saddam Hussein. America showcased its unique ability to project power over vast distances to achieve substantial results. Unfortunately, those initial victories were short-lived. As the security situations deteriorated in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States became engaged in longer term irregular conflicts. American and allied militaries struggled to adapt their doctrine, training, and technology to counter an elusive foe. While ground forces relearned and incorporated counterinsurgency (COIN) lessons, Airmen explored how airpower's flexibility, responsiveness, and bird's-eye view of the battlefield could respond to those lessons. This reexamination of airpower revealed several enduring principles. Most important is that Airmen must gain airspace control, so the full advantages of rapid mobility, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and precision strike are available to the commander. At higher altitudes, the adversary generally ceded control, but at lower altitudes, control could be contested. By controlling the air and space over Iraq and Afghanistan, the air component was able to transport thousands of personnel, drop supplies to isolated units, evacuate wounded, gather real-time intelligence, and conduct precision strikes to disrupt and destroy insurgent forces. In addition, air and space control allows Airmen to conduct train, advise, assist, and equip missions for indigenous air forces and to strengthen civil aviation infrastructures necessary for national sovereignty and economic growth. These lessons have been a staple of airpower employment since its inception, and they remain relevant today and in the future."
National Defense University Press: http://ndupress.ndu.edu/
PRISM (March 2011), v.2 no.2, p.127-134