Review Validates Efforts in Afghanistan, Mullen Says

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2010 — The Afghanistan-Pak­istan review Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced today val­i­dates what ser­vice­mem­bers have been doing through­out the the­ater, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

The review looked at the Afghanistan-Pak­istan strat­e­gy that Oba­ma put in place last year and reaf­firmed the goal announced last year to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da. It also makes clear that the Unit­ed States has a long-term strate­gic com­mit­ment to Afghanistan and Pak­istan to ensure that al-Qai­da and affil­i­at­ed groups do not return to the area to plan more attacks like the ones on Sept. 11, 2001, that killed 3,000 Amer­i­cans.

The chair­man called the review a “very impor­tant check” on the strat­e­gy.

Mullen is in Afghanistan meet­ing with Amer­i­can, NATO and Afghan offi­cials. He came to the coun­try from Pak­istan, where he con­sult­ed with mil­i­tary and civil­ian lead­ers.

In Afghanistan, the chair­man met with Marines and sailors at Camp Hansen –- out­side the city of Mar­ja –- and sol­diers and civil­ians at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Wil­son in west­ern Kan­da­har. Yes­ter­day, he vis­it­ed troops in Region­al Com­mand East at Bagram Air­field near the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul. In all areas, he received can­did appraisals of the sit­u­a­tion, how the units are imple­ment­ing the strat­e­gy and what com­man­ders and ser­vice­mem­bers see on the front lines.

The review found that progress has been made in Afghanistan and that the Tal­iban and al-Qai­da momen­tum in the coun­try has been arrest­ed and, in some key areas, reversed.

The review does not call for ser­vice­mem­bers to change what they are doing. Rather, “it val­i­dates what they are doing, and what they should be focused on,” the chair­man said dur­ing an inter­view with reporters trav­el­ing with him.

“As we start to make sig­nif­i­cant progress in the secu­ri­ty area,” Mullen said, “they will look to what they’ve achieved” as val­i­da­tion of the strat­e­gy and their efforts.

On this trip and in pre­vi­ous trav­els through the region, the chair­man has stressed that the July 2011 date announced in the Afghanistan-Pak­istan strat­e­gy is not an end date for U.S. involve­ment in Afghanistan. Rather, he said, it’s when the secu­ri­ty tran­si­tion to Afghan lead will begin. Amer­i­can troops will con­tin­ue to be in Afghanistan after July 2011, the chair­man said.

Mullen dis­cussed the process behind the review and how it dif­fers from a sim­i­lar effort last year.

“This year, it was a dif­fer­ent focus,” he said. “Last year it was, ‘What’s the strat­e­gy, and how do we resource it?’ This year, it was the diag­nos­tic on the strat­e­gy, [ask­ing] ‘How are we doing?’ ”

Mullen added that the ser­vice­mem­bers who must imple­ment the strat­e­gy are a year into the process now, and they under­stand much bet­ter what they need to do.

Both review process­es fea­tured healthy debate, the chair­man said. It has helped, he added, that the strat­e­gy is show­ing results, much of it as the review neared its end.

“We also start­ed to see — right through the end of the review [in] Sep­tem­ber, Octo­ber, Novem­ber -– we’ve seen secu­ri­ty progress which has opened up the door for oth­er things,” Mullen said.

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

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