Mullen: Terror Groups Seeking Global Reach

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)

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