Mullen Discusses Surge Successes in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan, Dec. 14, 2010 — Though the last of the U.S. surge troops only reached Afghanistan last month, they already are achiev­ing suc­cess­es, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pak­istani reporters here today.
The Unit­ed States added 30,000 more ser­vice­mem­bers to the effort in Afghanistan, and NATO and oth­er coali­tion nations added anoth­er 10,000.

The sit­u­a­tion in Hel­mand province –- a hotbed of Tal­iban activ­i­ty in Afghanistan -– has improved marked­ly, Mullen said.

“Often we talk of safe havens for the Tal­iban here in Pak­istan,” he said. “But we also have root­ed out the Tal­iban from safe havens in Afghanistan –- specif­i­cal­ly west­ern Kan­da­har, Pan­jwai, Zhari [and] Arghandab.”

These areas were long-time Tal­iban safe havens, and the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in these areas has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly in a year. “It’s tak­en a while to get all [the surge forces] in and all the inputs right,” the chair­man said.

But secu­ri­ty is only a part of the equa­tion, he told reporters. The Unit­ed States also has tripled the num­ber of civil­ians work­ing on gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment projects.

It has tak­en time to put the resources in place, and the gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment efforts won’t work unless the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion turns, Mullen said. “It’s begin­ning,” he added. “I’m not say­ing it’s com­plete­ly turned, because it hasn’t, but there’s been a sig­nif­i­cant rever­sal. It’s frag­ile, and it is not irre­versible.”

A Pak­istani oper­a­tion against the Tal­iban in Pakistan’s North Waziris­tan area is need­ed to improve secu­ri­ty in the region, the chair­man said. “That’s where the al-Qai­da lead­er­ship resides, [and] that’s where the Haqqani net­work is head­quar­tered,” he explained. “The Haqqa­nis are lead­ing the way in com­ing across the bor­der and killing Amer­i­can and allied forces. That has got to cease.”

North Waziris­tan also is the cen­ter for ter­ror groups work­ing against Pak­istan and killing Pak­istani cit­i­zens. Pak­istani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ash­faq Kayani has weighed in on an oper­a­tion in Waziris­tan, “say­ing not if, but when,” Mullen said.

The chair­man also explained the two key dates for NATO oper­a­tions in Afghanistan. The first is July 2011, when the process of tran­si­tion­ing secu­ri­ty con­trol to Afghan forces begins. Offi­cials in Afghanistan explained that com­man­ders will sug­gest dis­trict or provinces ready for the tran­si­tion process in the spring. By July, “we expect some thin­ning or redis­tri­b­u­tion of troops,” the chair­man said.

The July date does not mean that U.S., NATO and coali­tion troops will be leav­ing en masse, Mullen said.

“While we will have the begin­nings of a draw­down by July, it does not mean that the Unit­ed States or our allies will not have a con­sid­er­able num­ber of troops in Afghanistan after July,” he said.

The oth­er date -– Dec. 31, 2014 -– allows the 48 coali­tion nations to focus on the tran­si­tion goal. Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai first set that goal in his inau­gu­ra­tion speech. In four years, the Afghan army and police should have the req­ui­site man­ning and train­ing to assume the lead in secu­ri­ty nation­al­ly. The NATO nations and their coali­tion allies agreed to the Decem­ber 2014 date dur­ing the alliance’s sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, last month.

The Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to defeat­ing al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror groups in Afghanistan, and to build the coun­try, Mullen said.

“From the Unit­ed States per­spec­tive, our strate­gic goal is to have a long-term sta­ble strate­gic part­ner­ship with Afghanistan,” he said, “and make that trust that was there at one time return.”

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

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