By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 23, 2009 - The U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan must "put the Afghan people at the center," as the United States and coalition provide them the support they need to build their country, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during a Pentagon Channel podcast interview he applauds the comprehensive strategy review under way and expects it to wrap up "in the next week or two at most."
"We have to recognize where we are in Afghanistan," Mullen said. "We are in a position where the security for the people of Afghanistan has badly deteriorated. The violence level is up."
In addition to security, the Afghanistan strategy will emphasize providing the national, provincial and district-level governance the people need, as well as economic and development support, he said.
"What's really critical is that we put the Afghan people in the center, and that they become the center of gravity, and figure out a way to support their needs from a security, economic, as well as from a governance standpoint," he said.
Mullen's comments echoed those expressed by President Barack Obama during an interview last night with CBS-TV's "60 Minutes."
What's needed, Obama said, is a multifaceted, highly focused Afghan strategy that goes beyond military power.
"What we can't do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems," Obama said. "So what we're looking for is a comprehensive strategy" that also emphasizes economic growth and more diplomatic cooperation. In doing so, the president said, the United States can't lose sight of the mission that's remained constant since immediately after the 9-11 terror attacks. The top priority in Afghanistan is "making sure that al-Qaida cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies," Obama said.