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American Forces Press Service

U.S., U.K. Military Relationship Essential, Mullen Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, June 10, 2011 – The military relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is second to none in terms of strength and is without parallel in terms of shared sacrifice and commitment to similar ideals, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

After meetings with Gen. Sir David Richards, head of the British armed forces, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, and other British and French military officials, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke with reporters at the U.S. Embassy in London.

“Ours is a very unique military relationship. … I’m honored to be here today to be both a partner to and a benefactor of this special and essential relationship,” the chairman said.

Mullen praised the “tremendous contribution” of the British military, which has more than 10,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan.

“Three hundred seventy-one of your young men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice since 2001 -- three in just the last week, and many more, no doubt, who have come home with both visible and invisible wounds,” he said, adding that his thoughts and prayers and those of every American go out to the British families of those who have suffered.

Discussions today with Richards, British service chiefs and other senior military leaders, as well as senior French military leaders, were productive, the chairman said.

“There’s an awful lot to discuss [and] an awful lot going on,” he said, “so it’s a terrific opportunity to talk about not just our bilateral relationship, but also the military alliances in Libya and Afghanistan, not to mention other global security challenges that we all have.”

Mullen praised NATO’s efforts in leading operations in Libya for much of the past two months. The alliance, he added, accepted its role readily, quickly and virtually seamlessly.

“What happened in terms of so many nations coming to consensus in such a rapid timeframe speaks to NATO’s commitment and relevance in a dynamic security environment,” Mullen said. “And it clearly saved precious lives across Libya.”

The alliance also is working hard to save innocent lives in Afghanistan, he added, and to deny terrorists safe havens there.

“From a security and training standpoint,” Mullen said, “I think we are making solid progress.”

International warfighters have halted the Taliban’s momentum in the south, even in the face of renewed violence in recent months, he said.

“We’ve grown and developed a much more competent Afghan security force, and al-Qaida, which once used that country as a base from which to train and resource attacks against the West, is today clearly a much less effective network,” Mullen said.

Based on forthcoming recommendations from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, President Barack Obama soon will decide how many U.S. troops will start withdrawing from Afghanistan this summer, the chairman said.

“As we look back on the surge forces [Obama] sent to Afghanistan more than a year ago and the counterinsurgency focus of the mission he gave them,” he said, “the strategy was the right one, and the resources applied to it were appropriate.”

This assessment, he added, is based on what he’s told by military commanders from the United States and from other countries.

“I was in Germany yesterday, and I spent time with my German counterpart [Gen. Volker Wieker, chief of the German armed forces], who was in [Regional Command] North two weeks ago,” Mullen said. “He gave a very dense review of the strategy up there, and he’s optimistic.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s over, he added. “It doesn’t mean it’s not tough -- it is. … The Taliban are working hard to reclaim the territory they lost last year, and they still intimidate and assassinate,” he said.

Al-Qaida still operates in the border regions, and still plots and plans locally and internationally against the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western countries, the chairman said.

“In Afghanistan, poor governance and corruption in wide swaths still threaten to put at risk the gains in security that we have made,” Mullen said. “But let there be no question about the overall positive trends we’re seeing -- trends that permit the United States to begin our transition.”

In addition, he said, there should be no question “about the extraordinary work that all of our troops from every contributing nation have accomplished in extremely difficult circumstances.”

Along with dangerous adversaries, today’s circumstances include a rocky economic environment for nearly every nation involved in the fight, the chairman acknowledged. Closer relationships among nations, he said, especially those working together as part of NATO and other alliances, could help to ease the stress of dwindling military budgets.

“A concern we all share,” Mullen said, “is that in times of diminishing defense resources, we all have to be very focused on our investments for the future and maximize those in a way that ensures NATO continues to be prepared for these very uncertain times.”

Mullen said he sees NATO as being about the alliance and the strength of 28 nations together in whatever missions it chooses to participate in. “No one nation can do it alone,” he said. “This is a global environment, rapidly changing, much more interconnected and interdependent from one nation to another, and even from one alliance to another.”

Together, he added, nations must figure out how to best use resources together, balancing capabilities as an alliance and as individual countries so that military portfolios support and complement each other.

Many countries developing different versions of the same kind of capability has been a problem, Mullen said.

“I think that’s an area we’re going to have to start looking more broadly at,” he added, “so that our capabilities complement, and don’t necessarily duplicate, each other. You need capacity, you need numbers, but if everybody’s got the same thing, I don’t think that’s ideal.

“Part of what Sir Dave and I talk about when I’m here and when we have other meetings is capabilities that both increase capacity between the two of us as well as complement each other as we look to the future,” he added.

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