Mullen Discusses Libya, Middle East, Pakistan

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011 — U.S. and inter­na­tion­al pres­sure has “raised the ante sig­nif­i­cant­ly” against Libyan dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gadhafi’s bru­tal crack­down on pro-democ­ra­cy demon­stra­tors, but it’s yet to be seen if they’ll have an effect, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yes­ter­day in Phoenix.
Acknowl­edg­ing that the sit­u­a­tion in Libya “looks like it’s evolv­ing into a very uneven civ­il war,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has made clear he’s look­ing at “all kinds of options.”

Field­ing ques­tions from stu­dents at Ari­zona State University’s Wal­ter Cronkite School of Jour­nal­ism and Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Mullen said nation­al and inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions, includ­ing the freez­ing of Gadhafi’s assets in the Unit­ed States, have sent a strong mes­sage. The chair­man not­ed that the Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil has called for action, and the Arab League has a meet­ing sched­uled this week­end to address the cri­sis.

“It is my view that [with] this inter­na­tion­al pres­sure -– all of us togeth­er –- we have con­tin­ued to squeeze” Gad­hafi, Mullen said, call­ing the Libyan leader “a very dan­ger­ous man.”

Gad­hafi “has been decried by almost every leader in the world,” Mullen said. “The vast major­i­ty of coun­tries have cut him off. So there is an extra­or­di­nary amount of pres­sure being applied.”

The chair­man called the upris­ings that have rip­pled across the Mid­dle East in recent weeks a clear sign that peo­ple are no longer con­tent to live under repres­sive dic­ta­tor­ships. “Peo­ple are say­ing ‘Enough,’ ” Mullen said. “They are seek­ing their free­dom. They are seek­ing democ­ra­cy. They are seek­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that we have grown up with … and take for grant­ed. That is what this is about.”

The sit­u­a­tion is not about Amer­i­ca, al-Qai­da or out­side influ­ences, Mullen said. “This is about the peo­ple inside every one of those coun­tries say­ing they are look­ing for a bet­ter way of life,” he added.

Mullen praised the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary for the pro­fes­sion­al­ism it demon­strat­ed dur­ing that country’s unrest last month that ulti­mate­ly top­pled Hos­ni Mubarak’s regime. The Egypt­ian mil­i­tary “did the right thing” by sup­port­ing the evo­lu­tion of democ­ra­cy rather than inflict­ing vio­lence on their own peo­ple, he said. The chair­man cred­it­ed, in part, the 30-year mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Egypt.

“That rela­tion­ship, unbro­ken, I believe was a crit­i­cal part in the over­all out­come so far in terms of what is hap­pen­ing in Egypt,” he said.

Address­ing anoth­er ques­tion­er, Mullen said the Unit­ed States is work­ing hard to rebuild Pak­istani trust lost when the Unit­ed States ter­mi­nat­ed its mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with that coun­try in 1990 for 12 years. “We are try­ing to fill that huge hole cre­at­ed in that rela­tion­ship,” he said.

“Our rela­tion­ship with the Pak­istani mil­i­tary … has improved dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the last sev­er­al years,” said Mullen, not­ing that he has trav­eled there per­son­al­ly more than 20 times.

Call­ing the region along the Pak­istan-Afghanistan bor­der “the epi­cen­ter of ter­ror­ism in the world,” Mullen cred­it­ed the Pak­istani leadership’s deci­sion to move large num­bers of troops there from the east­ern part of the coun­try.

The chair­man rec­og­nized the “tens of thou­sands” of casu­al­ties Pak­istan has suf­fered to ter­ror­ists and a spate of trou­bling recent events: sui­cide bomb­ings in Pak­istan, the assas­si­na­tions of for­mer Pun­jab Gov. Salmaan Taseer and Minori­ties Affairs Min­is­ter Shah­baz Bhat­ti, among them.

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

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