Afghanistan — Mullen Attends Kandahar Meeting, Visits Local Police

CAMP NATHAN SMITH, Afghanistan, July 26, 2010 — “We have left [Afghanistan] before,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said to Kan­da­har com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers here today. “It did­n’t work.”

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives on Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives on Camp Nathan Smith in Kan­da­har, Afghanistan, July 26, 2010. Mullen is vis­it­ing Afghanistan dur­ing a 10-day trip around the world to meet with coun­ter­parts and troops engaged in the war on ter­ror­ism.
DoD pho­to by U.S. Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Chad J. McNee­ley
Click to enlarge

The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the four men at the Cana­di­an-Amer­i­can camp in the city. It was the sec­ond time the chair­man had met with the men. He held a sim­i­lar shu­ra, or meet­ing, with them last year.

The meet­ing gave the chair­man an oppor­tu­ni­ty to hear from Afghans about what they believe are the prob­lems con­fronting them. Mullen told the Afghans that he was pleased to meet with them again, and urged them to be can­did with him.

And they were. “Do you bring secu­ri­ty, or do you bring vio­lence?” asked one of the Afghan lead­ers through a trans­la­tor. The Afghans told Mullen they are con­cerned that Kan­da­har will become a bat­tle­field, and that this should be avoid­ed. All men spoke with the under­stand­ing that their iden­ti­ties will be pro­tect­ed, lest the Tal­iban retal­i­ate against them or their fam­i­lies.

The Afghans told the admi­ral that not enough devel­op­ment mon­ey is reach­ing aver­age Afghans, and that men are work­ing for the Tal­iban as a way to feed their fam­i­lies.

And they want con­crete steps tak­en. “The first thing is that noth­ing has changed,” said one of the com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers via a trans­la­tor. The men had com­plaints about secu­ri­ty, about the may­or and provin­cial lead­ers. The Afghans also told Mullen that they were wor­ried about kid­nap­pings and ter­ror­ist attacks from Pak­istan.

“We hear that you are leav­ing,” one of the elders said to Mullen. “Who will help us then?”

The chair­man assured the men that the Unit­ed States is not leav­ing Afghanistan. Mullen was refer­ring to the end of the Sovi­et era in Afghanistan, when he’d told the Afghan men at the meet­ing that the Unit­ed States had left Afghanistan before and the result was 3,000 Amer­i­can dead in the wake of ter­ror­ist attacks in New York and Wash­ing­ton and the thwart­ed attack that end­ed in Penn­syl­va­nia on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001.

“The oper­a­tions piece is to focus on secu­ri­ty,” Mullen told the Afghan men. This, he explained, will allow civil­ian agen­cies – both inter­na­tion­al and Afghan – to focus on bring­ing good gov­er­nance to Kan­da­har, the sec­ond-largest city in Afghanistan. The coali­tion and Afghan forces, he added, must “reduce the malign pres­ence” the Tal­iban, crime fam­i­lies and nar­co-traf­fick­ers impose.

The mil­i­tary option in Kan­da­har City is lim­it­ed, Mullen said.

“We are not going to be able to kill our way to suc­cess,” the chair­man said.

Cre­at­ing jobs is a key to rid­ding Kan­da­har of the Tal­iban, Mullen said. He agreed with one of the elders that if they could pro­duce 20 jobs for every 10 jobs lost, the Tal­iban would be gone.

Mullen also told the Afghan lead­ers that much progress has been made against the Tal­iban.

“We have learned and adjust­ed,” the admi­ral said. “The next sev­en to nine months will be absolute­ly crit­i­cal.”

Mullen left the shu­ra and trav­elled in a mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed Cougar vehi­cle to vis­it an Afghan police sta­tion. Some of the streets he trav­elled through were filled with trash and derelict build­ings. Oth­ers were clean and the shops filled with pro­duce, elec­tron­ic gear and store­front car and motor­cy­cle repair shops.

The con­voy crossed a canal where some Afghan chil­dren were swim­ming. Some of the chil­dren waved to the con­voy. Oth­ers threw rocks.

At the sta­tion, Mullen praised the Afghan police for their ded­i­ca­tion and their will­ing­ness to step for­ward to defend their nation and the Afghan peo­ple.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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