WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2010 — Terror groups in the Middle East are seeking to expand their influence and operations beyond their borders to the rest of the world, the top U.S. military officer said yesterday.
“The reason we’re focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan is that living in that border area are terrorists from various organizations … and it’s become the epicenter of terrorism in the world,” said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a speech at Texas A&M University.
“Several of those organizations, in addition to al-Qaida, now have global aspirations and are moving to a point of having global operational capacity,” he added, “and they threaten us very specifically –- the United States, Western interests, our European friends.”
Mullen specifically mentioned al-Qaida, as well as the Taliban entities that focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a Pakistan-based terror organization.
Keeping the pressure on the terrorist organizations now is critical, the admiral said, noting that such measures include improving governance, education and economics in countries whose young people are becoming part of such organizations.
“I don’t think we can kill our way through this,” Mullen said. “I think those conditions have to change and that’s a long-term challenge. That’s not going to happen overnight. But together with other countries — responsible global powers — we can make significant progress over time. That’s the long-term answer.”
Success in the Middle East is based on several components, one of which is training the Afghan national security forces to provide for their own security, he said.
“There are some significant challenges with that,” Mullen said. “They’re missing mid-grade officers –- leaders — so we’re working hard to fill those gaps as rapidly as we can.
Other factors include reducing government corruption and helping bolster the Afghan economy, he added.
“A huge part of this strategy and mission deals with a significant effort to reduce high-level, predatory corruption,” Mullen said. “That is tied to governance, so the government of this country, whether it’s the national government or the local government, can actually provide for the needs of the people. That’s what the Afghan people want.”
Mullen wouldn’t say when the United States and its allies would achieve success in Afghanistan.
“There is a strong desire to say: ‘Here’s a timeline, here’s when it ends and [to] know for sure,’ ” he said. “I’ve been living in this world for too long; we don’t predict timelines very well.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)