Mullen Speaks on Debt Deal, Progress in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Aug. 2, 2011 — Because the grow­ing nation­al debt remains as the biggest threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty, the recent debate and res­o­lu­tion of the debt ceil­ing cri­sis are impor­tant steps, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

“It is up to Con­gress how to fig­ure out how to move ahead with regard to the debt,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence.

“I don’t have the details of the deal,” the chair­man said. “I cer­tain­ly expect there will be defense cuts as a part of this deal — I just don’t know yet.”

Any cuts would come on top of a man­date from Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to cut defense spend­ing by $400 bil­lion over 10 years. Mullen said that because he doesn’t yet know what the Pentagon’s topline bud­get is for fis­cal 2012, which starts Oct. 1, plan­ning is dif­fi­cult.

Mullen, who is retir­ing after four years as chair­man at the end of Sep­tem­ber, came to the military’s top uni­formed posi­tion in Octo­ber 2007, a time he called the “peak of the down­side” in Iraq. Since then, he said, he has come back to Iraq many times, and he has been amazed at the progress Iraqis have made. He used his vis­it to Mosul yes­ter­day as an exam­ple.

“The U.S. forces have now turned over all the secu­ri­ty check­points,” he said. “[The Iraqis] are doing it pro­fes­sion­al­ly and effi­cient­ly.”

Fly­ing over Bagh­dad, he added, it becomes appar­ent that the city is lit up, it has a lot of traf­fic on the roads, and the Iraqis are build­ing an eco­nom­ic infra­struc­ture that will cap­i­tal­ize on the country’s oil resources.

“The [Amer­i­can] blood and trea­sure that has been sac­ri­ficed here has giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ty to 26 mil­lion peo­ple who had a pret­ty bleak future to have an entire­ly dif­fer­ent one,” he said. “There are huge chal­lenges, but progress is pal­pa­ble, and is bet­ter each time I see it.”

Mullen stressed that the Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to a strong, long-term rela­tion­ship and part­ner­ship with Iraq, and that a strong mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship would ben­e­fit both coun­tries. “Over a long peri­od of time, the rela­tion­ship will just get stronger and stronger,” the chair­man said.

The most impor­tant part of that rela­tion­ship, Mullen said, is its peo­ple-to-peo­ple aspect — not only with senior lead­ers, but also with junior offi­cers and non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers.

“These junior offi­cers and NCOs need to learn about each oth­er when they are young, so when they do reach high­er lev­els … they are not sim­ply begin­ning a rela­tion­ship with their oppo­site num­bers, but con­tin­u­ing it,” he said.

Iraq is a crit­i­cal coun­try in a crit­i­cal region, Mullen said, and it can be a pos­i­tive exam­ple to strug­gling nations through­out the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia.

“I think there is great hope for sta­bil­i­ty, great hope for eco­nom­ic growth, great hope for a democ­ra­cy in this region,” he said.

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

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