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American Forces Press Service

Mullen Says Evaluating Afghan Strategy Makes Sense

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MANAS, Kyrgyzstan, Dec. 21, 2007 – Constantly evaluating U.S. strategy in Afghanistan makes sense given the unpredictability of the area and the enemy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

The U.S. military constantly examines its plans and strategies, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen said in an interview. The admiral explained that the United States will lead and participate in preparing a new concept paper for NATO in Afghanistan that will be presented during the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, in April. The strategy review also will help mold that paper, he said.

“What I found in these countries is that it is important to constantly evaluate where you are,” Mullen said. “They are so complex, and the dynamics are unpredictable and changing constantly. There are actually a wide variety of nations in and out of NATO; all think we should be considering what our strategy in Afghanistan should be.”

Mullen broke off from a USO holiday tour to meet with U.S. and NATO leaders in Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday and today. He also visited a Canadian forward operating base outside Kandahar today. While much more work needs to be done, he said, he is optimistic about the future of the country. “I was here in October, and I left more optimistic than I expected to, and I think the same is true this time,” the admiral said.

“There are clearly huge challenges in Afghanistan, but going out into the (forward operating base) to see the Afghan army work, the message comes through loud and clear that the training and mentoring (of the Afghan security forces) is as vital as any part of the mission we have,” he said.

Mullen met with U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force; Army Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of Regional Command East; and British Army Maj. Gen. Jacko Page, the commander of Regional Command South. He said the commanders are reasonably positive about what’s going on in the country. “They have made some progress; they know they could use more resources,” Mullen said, but they did not ask for any specific units or items.

Page briefed Mullen on the fight in Musa Qaleh that moved the Taliban out of the area. Page told the admiral that he was impressed with the performance of the Afghan army in that battle.

“Still, we have a long way to go, we all know that,” Mullen said. “And it’s going to be a long, difficult challenge that has got to cover not only the security side, it’s got to cover the economic side, the governance side, the political side, the diplomatic side. All those have to work together.”

Mullen said one missing piece to bring all aspects of all governments together is a civilian “super envoy” to Afghanistan. “It’s a recommendation that is going to be made to the United Nations secretary-general, and I’m hopeful that the secretary-general will appoint that person,” Mullen said. “I think someone who has those skills and can bring all of the elements from all nations together would be a very powerful step forward for Afghanistan. This is a critical piece for the long-term health of Afghanistan.”

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