By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 13, 2009 - Providing security for Afghan people until they can provide their own will help set the conditions needed to move the country forward, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday during a Public Broadcasting Service interview. The United States is "not there to run Afghanistan," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.
U.S. forces are training the Afghan military and allowing the government the time needed to take care of its people. "When we've gotten to that point, we're leaving," he said. "There's no question in my mind."
The Taliban and their al-Qaida allies have regrouped and launched coordinated attacks in Afghanistan -- especially in the south and east of the country. The terror groups have become so effective that the Afghan people are viewing the groups as a choice.
"They have generated a ... significant rise in the level of violence, and they're starting to turn the people back towards them," Mullen said.
Afghan people would not freely choose the extremist group, but believe they might have to work with them if they "run the place or provide security or both," the chairman noted.
This is why President Barack Obama chose to send 17,000 more U.S. troops into the country. These troops will be used to provide security for the Afghan people and help to turn the situation around, Mullen said. And more troops may be sent to the country following the outcome of the Afghan strategy report due out before the NATO Summit in France on April 1.
"What we are focused on right now is ... providing security for the people," Mullen said. "I really believe in all this that the Afghan people are the center of gravity, and that an ability to provide security for them and then get them to take ... charge of their own security gives us an opportunity to set the conditions for the kind of good government that they need as well, as to get the development going, the economy going."
It's a complex challenge for a complex country, and it will require more than military capabilities. Mullen said the world needs to mobilize civilian capabilities to help with economic, political and governance capabilities. NATO nations can provide some of that expertise, Mullen said.
"There are a large group of requirements in Afghanistan," he said. "We need police trainers, and there are plenty countries in Europe that do that exceptionally well. We need individuals not in the military who could take care of training ministries at all levels. We need development experts, whether it's in agriculture or other industries that would apply in that ... country.
"So we need a lot of help across a full spectrum of capabilities, not just the military side."
The chairman noted that Afghanistan is a long way from dealing with the Taliban.
"I think in any counterinsurgency, if you're successful, you get to a point where there's got to be some kind of reconciliation, but we're not at that point right now," he said.
The chairman said the United States is not winning in Afghanistan, "but I think we can. And in a counterinsurgency, if you're not winning, you're losing."
Putting more troops in the country will increase the violence level, Mullen said, noting that the men and women of the U.S. military are up to the challenge.