Afghanistan/Pakistan — Mullen Stresses Commitment to Afghanistan, Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan, July 24, 2010 — Navy Adm. Mike Mullen stressed America’s com­mit­ment to Afghanistan and the region dur­ing inter­views with Pak­istani TV and print reporters today.

The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that the July 2011 date Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has set as the start of draw­ing down the plus-up of troops he ordered in Novem­ber does not mean the Unit­ed States will run for the doors.

Mullen spoke direct­ly to those Pak­ista­nis who doubt America’s com­mit­ment in Afghanistan. “America’s mil­i­tary mis­sion there will not end in July 2011,” Mullen said slow­ly and delib­er­ate­ly.

A year from now, the Unit­ed States and its Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force part­ners will begin the process of hand­ing over secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

“We will do so only as fast and as far as con­di­tions per­mit,” he said. “No one is look­ing for the door out of Afghanistan, or out of this region.”

Mullen said that while the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence will dimin­ish, Amer­i­can friend­ship and strate­gic part­ner­ship will endure. “The Unit­ed States mil­i­tary is as com­mit­ted to our rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan as it is to our mis­sion in Afghanistan,” he said.

The region­al approach is the only way to defeat extrem­ist groups that ignore bor­ders and prey on help­less peo­ple wher­ev­er they find them, the admi­ral said.

“No one nation, and no one mil­i­tary can accom­plish our shared goal of a sta­ble and secure Afghanistan,” he said. “We need Pakistan’s con­tin­ued help and, frankly, we still believe we have much to offer you in return.”

Mullen empha­sized that there are no Amer­i­can com­bat troops in Pak­istan, nor will there be. There are about 120 Amer­i­can train­ers who work with the Pak­istani mil­i­tary at the Pak­istani government’s request and they will remain, he said.

“This is not America’s war. It’s a region­al war, and, in some ways, a glob­al war,” he said.

The chair­man appre­ci­ates the sac­ri­fices of the Pak­istani peo­ple against com­mon foes in what is an uncom­mon and treach­er­ous fight. The Pak­istani mil­i­tary has con­duct­ed 16 months of cease­less bat­tle against extrem­ists who are an exis­ten­tial threat to the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, its peo­ple and their way of life.

Mullen also addressed what he sees as a grow­ing prob­lem in the inter­con­nect­ed­ness among ter­ror­ist groups. Lashkar-e-Tai­ba is an exam­ple of a group that had lim­it­ed goals at first – the “lib­er­a­tion” of Mus­lims in Kash­mir – that has mor­phed into a gen­er­al pur­pose ter­ror group with region­al and even glob­al aspi­ra­tions. LeT is affil­i­at­ed with al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror groups, he said.

LeT launched the attacks in Mum­bai, India, in 2008 that killed 166 peo­ple, and brought rela­tions between India and Pak­istan – both nuclear-armed coun­tries – clos­er to war, Mullen said.

The group is active in Afghanistan, and has tar­get­ed areas of South Asia, Europe and the Unit­ed States.

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