Mullen Appreciates Chance for Afghan Strategy Review

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.”

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

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