NATO Unity Aids Comprehensive Afghan Strategy, Mullen Says

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2010 — After years of fight­ing the war in Afghanistan with­out enough NATO or U.S. forces, new agree­ments reached at the NATO Sum­mit this week­end have brought uni­ty to the multi­na­tion­al effort in that nation, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Appear­ing this morn­ing on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen dis­cussed progress in Afghanistan and oth­er nation­al secu­ri­ty issues.

“As we have changed the strat­e­gy, focused and got­ten the resources right over the course of the last year, this is the first time we real­ly are where we need to be in terms of exe­cut­ing a com­pre­hen­sive strat­e­gy,” Mullen said.

As the sum­mit end­ed yes­ter­day, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen and Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai signed a dec­la­ra­tion of “endur­ing part­ner­ship,” and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of 48 nations that con­tribute to the U.N.-mandated Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan issued a dec­la­ra­tion affirm­ing their resolve to lay foun­da­tions there for long-term secu­ri­ty.

Mullen said he was encour­aged by the dec­la­ra­tions in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, where NATO and the 48 con­tribut­ing nations all affirmed 2014 as the dead­line for turn­ing secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ties over to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

“I would describe it much like what we just went through in Iraq, where clear­ly they have the lead for their own secu­ri­ty,” Mullen said. “We are there in some capac­i­ty in a train­ing, advis­ing and assist mode, which we would expect to be for some time. But in terms of com­bat oper­a­tions, they would have the lead.”

NATO also affirmed the tran­si­tion would start in the spring, the chair­man said, and will be based on con­di­tions on the ground as well as on “dis­trict by dis­trict” rec­om­men­da­tions from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

“We’ve laid out a plan, we think it’s a good tar­get, and [we have] an expec­ta­tion that it will be achieved,” Mullen said.

With more than 650 coali­tion troops, includ­ing 451 Amer­i­cans, killed in Afghanistan so far this year, Mullen said this peri­od has been par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult because of the influx of many more troops to the war zone.

“I would expect next year to be a very dif­fi­cult year as well,” the chair­man said. “That said, the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion has start­ed to change, it has start­ed to get bet­ter. We have sac­ri­ficed great­ly — trag­ic loss­es, far too many always — but we’ve also suc­ceed­ed in start­ing to reverse the momen­tum … in some sig­nif­i­cant places.

“It isn’t irre­versible and it’s still frag­ile,” he added. “That’s real­ly where we are right now in this fight.”

Mullen said he doesn’t expect “any great strate­gic shift” to come from the review due out in Decem­ber on progress in Afghanistan.

The review, he said, is “focus­ing on hav­ing got­ten all the inputs right, how are we doing in imple­men­ta­tion. And it’s start­ing to move in the right direc­tion.”

In response to ques­tions about the impor­tance of hav­ing the U.S. Sen­ate rat­i­fy the new Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty before the end of the year, Mullen not­ed that the lack of a treaty would endan­ger nation­al secu­ri­ty and threat­en the impor­tant new rela­tion­ship devel­op­ing between the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia.

“There’s no bet­ter exam­ple than this week­end, when [Russ­ian] Pres­i­dent [Dmit­ry] Medvedev was in Lis­bon with all of NATO and sup­port­ive of a mis­sile-defense capa­bil­i­ty in the future,” the chair­man said. “A year or two ago that just would not have been pos­si­ble.

“The Rus­sians have sup­port­ed us in Afghanistan — allowed us to trans­port some of our most sig­nif­i­cant equip­ment [through their ter­ri­to­ry],” he con­tin­ued. “They’ve also helped in oth­er ways that wouldn’t be wide­ly known. The rela­tion­ship is matur­ing very specif­i­cal­ly, and it’s one that’s helped us in Iran. There’s an awful lot tied into the improve­ment of this rela­tion­ship.”

The new START also pro­motes trans­paren­cy, pre­dictabil­i­ty and under­stand­ing between two nations whose arse­nals com­prise more than 90 per­cent of the nuclear weapons in the world, he said.

Mullen also addressed a pend­ing report about how the Defense Depart­ment should respond to a repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law asso­ci­at­ed with whether gays and les­bians should be able to serve open­ly in the U.S. mil­i­tary ser­vices. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates announced today that the report would be released to Con­gress and the pub­lic Nov. 30.

Many U.S. mil­i­tary allies, includ­ing mil­i­tary ser­vices in Eng­land, Cana­da, France, Aus­tralia and Israel, allow gays to serve open­ly, and Mullen said that infor­ma­tion would be part of the final report.

Mullen said he per­son­al­ly sup­ports the repeal “because [the prac­tice] belies us as an insti­tu­tion. We val­ue integri­ty and ask­ing indi­vid­u­als to come in and lie about who they are today goes counter to who we are as an insti­tu­tion.”

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

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