ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Nov. 10, 2010 — The White House review of the strategy in Afghanistan will be tremendously useful as a report card, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters traveling with him to Los Angeles today that the review process already is under way.
President Barack Obama ordered the review in December during a speech announcing the strategy at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Under the strategy, the United States deployed an additional 30,000 servicemembers into Afghanistan, increased civilian diplomatic and aid workers in the country and vowed to protect the population.
“We will look at the major issues associated with the strategy, and particularly as we look at them in comparison to what we were doing a year ago,” Mullen said.
The review, he said, will look at what planners believed the risks and concerns were last year, and how that forecast looks today.
“This is a review of how we are implementing and executing the strategy, as opposed to any expectation on my part that we will have a significant strategic shift due to the review,” the chairman said.
Security is still the greatest risk, Mullen said, noting the risks associated with getting troops and resources into the country. About 100,000 American servicemembers are now in Afghanistan.
Getting the resources in place to train the Afghan national security forces was also a risk, but now that is proceeding apace, Mullen said.
Risks also have posed challenges in setting up the federal, provincial and local governments, the chairman told reporters. This is a work in progress, he added, acknowledging that it is going well in some districts and not so well in others.
“I do think progress has been made in the security areas,” Mullen said.
The commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, has talked about arresting the insurgency in some parts of the country. “We put significant resources in, NATO added 10,000 and the last … of those have just arrived,” Mullen said. “We’ve trebled our civilian capacity, and we’ve begun the Afghan local police initiative,” in which armed neighborhood-watch groups overseen by the Afghan government play a role in local security.
Mullen said the review forces him to step back and look at Afghanistan more holistically. He sees the day-to-day reports, he said, but he added that it’s easy to get lost in the details. The review will enable him “to make a judgment about overall progress,” he said.
The chairman said the strategy had to lead with security, noting that the Taliban had the momentum in many parts of the nation last year.
“It’s been a tough fight, and tragically, we’ve lost tremendous young men and women in this fight,” he said. “Security is getting better, but literally, as we speak, it is a very tough time, and I expect next year to be a pretty tough fight as well.”
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