By Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 12, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed concern here today about trends in Afghanistan. Answering questions on CNN's "American Morning" from reporter John Roberts, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the policies to develop the country have not been a failure. We recognize, as in Iraq, that these policies evolve over time," Mullen said. "We're very focused on this." He noted that he and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, as well as President Bush, have focused heavily on Afghanistan in recent months.
Despite facing problems from a better-organized al-Qaida element that has a safe haven in Pakistan and from a growing drug trade, Mullen said victory in Afghanistan is possible, due in part to the U.S. and NATO effort.
"Our troops are doing spectacular work on the ground," the chairman said. "They've made a difference." But the admiral said the issues facing U.S. troops are more complex because of regional instability.
"I don't think we can focus just on Afghanistan, because Afghanistan and Pakistan have been inextricably linked for a long time," the chairman said. "They clearly are now. It's not just about the safe haven. It's about two countries that live next to each other. It's about engaging in a way, militarily, that brings out the best effect on both sides of that border, because that's such a serious issue."
Mullen said he's invested time in listening to the needs of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I've spent time with the military leadership of both countries," the admiral said. "They're both committed to this."
The chairman said the main goal is providing a level of security in Afghanistan that is sustainable so that the other factors to develop the country can take hold, much like Iraq.
"I'm very concerned, and will remain concerned," he said. "I want to focus on it. I'm optimistic in the long run."
(Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump serves in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)