By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
BERLIN, June 9, 2011 – Germany’s “truly exceptional performance” in Afghanistan’s Regional Command North has come at a cost to a country that is a key ally of the United States, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today.
“I’m very grateful for the continuing contribution of Germany in Afghanistan,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a briefing here with German and international journalists.
Since 2001, Mullen said, its support in Afghanistan has cost Germany the lives of 52 soldiers, with 190 more wounded.
Mullen met with members of the country team at the U.S. Embassy, which overlooks the site of the former Berlin Wall. A short distance away, on the parade field at the German defense ministry, the chairman participated in a military honors ceremony and then a wreath laying at the memorial of the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces. The memorial commemorates the deaths since 1955 of more than 3,100 German soldiers killed during combat and in attacks, military accidents and exercises. Afterward, the chairman met with Gen. Volker Wieker, chief of the German armed forces, and other military officials.
“I want to thank General Wieker and his staff for hosting me. We’ve had some good discussions,” Mullen said.
“We actually meet fairly frequently throughout the year,” he added, “but it’s very special to be here and to have discussions with him with respect to the changing times in which we certainly find ourselves.”
Mullen said he believes strongly in the NATO alliance, which he said is “more relevant than ever,” adding that U.S. and German participation in the alliance is critical.
A big reason for his visit, Mullen said, is to discuss ways to strengthen a relationship that’s already exceptionally strong, and “to listen to how the German military leadership sees that future unfolding in these increasingly challenging times where partners are so critical.”
The Afghanistan campaign is headed in the right direction, the chairman said.
“The resources, the strategy and the leadership that have been put in place over the course of the last 18 to 24 months have been the right resources and strategy,” he said. “And the leadership has been exceptional.”
The essence of the fight this year, he said, is that the Taliban are trying to get back to safe havens that the coalition has taken from them. “It’s been a particularly difficult fight, and it will continue to be,” the admiral said. “But the Taliban is in a place they’ve not been in for a long time.”
Along with the military campaign, he said, a significant political and diplomatic effort is under way that involves reconciliation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Every conflict involves a reconciliation at some point,” Mullen said, “[although] from my perspective, it’s too early to put any kind of timeline on that. I just know an awful lot of people are working it hard.”
Leaders in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States, he added, “are all very much committed to the inclusive aspect of the reconciliation process.”
The chairman said he’s also encouraged by NATO’s operation in Libya, although much work remains. “I was impressed with how rapidly NATO made a decision on Libya and how rapidly they stood up the mission and started to execute,” he said. “When you consider that we did in a few days what it took many, many, many months to do in the Balkans in the 1990s, I think that comparison is reflective of where NATO is right now.”
The operation in Libya, Mullen said, “is going pretty well.”
“We will continue to raise the pressure on [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi to leave Libya,” he added. In the long run, he said, “that’s an outcome that serves the region, it serves the world, and most importantly, it serves the people of Libya the best.”