By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 14, 2009 - The insurgency in Afghanistan has become more pervasive, more sophisticated and more violent, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during a news conference with Afghan and American reporters that the insurgents "have a dominant influence in 11 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces."
The insurgents are becoming more effective at using improvised explosive devices and small-unit tactics, Mullen said. "I remain deeply concerned by the growing level of collusion between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida and other extremist groups taking refuge across the border in Pakistan," he said.
Getting at this network is key to success in the country, the chairman added.
Mullen said he will discuss with Afghan and Pakistani leaders how all can better cooperate and coordinate activities against the terror network, and that he'll meet with Pakistani Gen. Asfaq Kiyani later this week. The Pakistani offensive in South Waziristan is going well, he said, and the Pakistani military is meeting its objectives.
"The Pakistani military, while taking a significant number of casualties, is taking the fight to this most dangerous enemy of their state," he said.
Consolidating military gains by ensuring a safe environment for building and governance is the most difficult part of counterinsurgency operations, Mullen said.
During visits with troops at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., last week, the chairman said, he told the troops to "steel themselves for more combat and more casualties, even as I told them to use the time before deployment to learn all they can about the Afghan culture."
American forces coming into Afghanistan will be familiar with local dialects, the ways of the population and their customs, Mullen said. "The Afghan people -- their needs, their perceptions, and, above all, their actions -- must remain the center of gravity in this conflict," he added.
The mission here is to defeat al-Qaida and prevent Afghanistan from succumbing to Taliban rule again, Mullen said, and the Afghan people are the key. They must feel safe to stand up to Taliban intimidation and brutality, he explained.
American forces will continue to work with and through Afghan national security forces and will continue to train Afghan forces leading up to July 2011, when American forces will begin to thin out, Mullen said.
"We must quickly reverse the momentum of this insurgency, and build the capacity of the Afghan army and police to provide for the security of their own country," he said.
Mullen said he is encouraged by Afghan President Hamid Karzai's stated intent to combat corruption and bring governance to all levels of government.