Mullen Cites Pakistani Cooperation in Afghanistan

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan, April 19, 2011 — Coop­er­a­tion between U.S. and Pak­istani sol­diers on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der is bet­ter than it has ever been, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters trav­el­ing with him to Afghanistan and Pak­istan that the Pak­istani mil­i­tary knows the threat the Haqqani net­work pos­es in Afghanistan, but that their first focus is on the Pak­istani Tal­iban that threat­ens their gov­ern­ment in Islam­abad.

But the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and the Pak­ista­nis have coop­er­at­ed, the admi­ral said.

“We have chased bad guys into their net­work, and [the Pak­ista­nis] have ham­mered them, and vice ver­sa,” Mullen said. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true on the bor­der Shared by Pak­istan and Afghanistan’s Khost province, he added.

Week­ly video tele­con­fer­ences take place across the bor­der at the divi­sion com­man­der lev­el, Mullen not­ed, and at the tac­ti­cal lev­el mes­sages pass back and forth across the bor­der even dur­ing com­bat.

A change over the past year has applied a com­pre­hen­sive approach to this bat­tle space in Region­al Com­mand East, Mullen said, includ­ing a defense in depth from the bor­der through the city of Khost, for exam­ple, to defend the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul. The Haqqani net­work had almost a free rein in the region, the chair­man said, but this has changed over the past year.

“Haqqani is hav­ing a much more dif­fi­cult time now,” he told reporters. “All that said, we’re still work­ing through the [Pak­istani] mil­i­tary sup­port, the way through the rela­tion­ships the [Pak­istani inter­ser­vice intel­li­gence agency] has with the Haqqani net­work, and the strain that cre­ates.”

Mullen said he will address these con­cerns when he meets with Pak­istani lead­ers lat­er this week.

Although the Unit­ed States has been in Afghanistan for 10 years, the chair­man said, only over the last 18 months has the effort been resourced cor­rect­ly.

“In the past 10 years, the Tal­iban has grown and is a very tough force,” he said. “That’s the com­bat that we are in. We’re going to have very a tough year this year. I’ve been very straight with the Amer­i­can peo­ple on that. I think our loss­es, which were sig­nif­i­cant last year, will be sig­nif­i­cant this year as well.”

Still, Mullen added, it was a tougher year on the ene­my.

“The Tal­iban had a real­ly tough year last year, and will have a tougher one this year,” he said. “I think we’ll know a lot more as to where this all stands … at the end of this fight­ing sea­son.” The fight­ing sea­son typ­i­cal­ly runs from spring through the end of Sep­tem­ber or ear­ly Octo­ber, when cold­er weath­er clos­es in.

ISAF has root­ed the Tal­iban out of the safe havens they had in Afghanistan’s south and south­west, where the main effort in the coun­try has been — an effort that was marked by tough fight­ing in and around Kan­da­har and Hel­mand provinces.

“What I’ve seen in the east is we now have a strat­e­gy in place that is much more com­pre­hen­sive,” Mullen said. “We’ve all known Haqqani, in par­tic­u­lar, is the heart of the prob­lem in sup­port­ing the Tal­iban and send­ing fight­ers into Afghanistan, and we think we are in much bet­ter shape with respect to mak­ing it much more dif­fi­cult for the Haqqa­nis this year.”

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

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