Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed Afghanistan with reporters in Kabul July 25.
KABUL, Afghanistan (July 25, 2010) — Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the International Security Assistance Force’s mission of developing a secure and stable Afghanistan at a press conference July 25 at the New Government Media and Information Center here.
“What we’re after in concert with our Afghan, NATO and regional partners, is a secure and stable Afghanistan that can defend and provide for itself, its citizens and contribute to the economic betterment of the region,” Mullen said. He added that the goal is still to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and to prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a safe haven for terrorists again.
The admiral stressed the need to protect Afghans through the counterinsurgency strategy.
“From the military perspective, we will accomplish this through a broad and balanced counterinsurgency campaign, rooted in the south and east but anchored always in the overarching need to protect the Afghan people,” Mullen said.
Additionally, with the change of leadership at ISAF, he stated that the mission to uphold the COIN strategy has not changed with the arrival of Gen. David H. Petraeus.
“Indeed, in my discussions with the general this afternoon, and in my visits with our troops, it was clear to me that we are in fact, making slow but steady progress toward our goals,” the admiral said. “Counterinsurgency fights have ups and downs, setbacks and steps forward. But to be frank, I am more optimistic than I have been in the past.”
With the increase in number and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces he noted governance is improving. In recent reports it was shown that some of the local citizens have resisted Taliban intimidation.
“Certainly the enemy is fighting back; after all, ISAF and Afghan forces took away what may have been their most important base,” Mullen said. “Nonetheless there is continued progress.”
In Kandahar the campaign to drive out Taliban leaders has grown and the operations have been successful.
“The campaign in Kandahar has grown in size and scope as additional Afghan and U.S. forces flow in,” he said. “A high tempo of Afghan and ISAF targeted special operations continues, and those operations have killed, captured, or run off hundreds of Taliban leaders and rank and file.”
Some of the developments the admiral mentioned that have been established are checkpoints manned by U.S. and Afghan Police elements around the city.
“More police are deploying into the city,” Mullen said. “And additional U.S. and Afghan brigades are partnering outside the city in a deliberate operation to expand security in key districts.”
He also praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his efforts at the recent Kabul Conference.
“I congratulate President Karzai for his success in hosting the conference, the first major international conference held in Kabul in a generation; and for the extraordinary work done by his Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance, who led the coordination effort and the Ministries of Interior and Defense, together with the coalition and Afghan forces, who ensured such impressive security,” the admiral added.
Some of the topics from the Kabul Conference were the urgency to improve Afghan partnership with the international community, to increase government transparency and accountability, especially with respect to corruption and developing the country’s rich natural resources and talent. He also welcomed President Karzai’s stated goal of having Afghan Forces assume full responsibility for the country’s security by 2014.
“I want him to know he has our full support,” Mullen said.
But with regards to the current plans for the transition, the admiral said America’s military mission in Afghanistan will not end in 2011.
“As we continue to increase our force levels and our operations over the summer, I would note that, while the deployment remains slightly ahead of schedule,” not all of the extra troops from President Obama’s surge are on the ground yet, he said. “We will likely see further tough casualties and levels of violence.”
Mullen said that while he is optimistic about the progress everyone should be pragmatic about the real challenge.
“Because in the end, it isn’t the fighting alone that will carry the day — it’s the governance,” he said. “It’s the efficient and effective administration of goods and services, of education and development, and of the rule of law and the protection of human rights.”
Consequently, following his recent visit in neighboring Pakistan, the admiral stated he’s pleased with the outcome of not only the efforts put forward from the leaders of the U.S. but the countries and agencies involved as well.
“I am already encouraged by the unity of effort being shown by not only the civilian and military leaders from my country, but indeed by those from all the countries and agencies involved in this effort,” he said. “Though our military presence will one day diminish, the friendship and strategic partnership will endure.”