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Queried about the sudden appearance of two Russian nuclear submarines off the U.S. East Coast, Adm. Mullen said he did not consider the patrols a sign of resurgence of the Cold War.

“I’m not alarmed by it. I’m very mindful of it and keeping an eye on it,” he said.

Asked why Russia would make such a move, Adm. Mullen replied: “Some of this is to show that [Russia] can” after years of watching their military infrastructure fray.

The Joint Chiefs chairman said that Russian navy officials had advised him in advance last year when they sent a warship through the Panama Canal to Venezuela.

U.S. officials said they were not told in advance of the submarine patrols.

Adm. Mullen, who has visited Afghanistan 10 times, said it was crucial to gain the trust of the Afghan people, who have endured 30 years of conflict since the Soviet invasion.

Many Afghan citizens and officials have expressed concern that the U.S. will abandon the country again as it did in 1989 after the defeat of the Soviet occupation.

“That trust was badly broken when we left [Afghanistan] before and it was badly broken in Pakistan … when we sanctioned them [over their nuclear program],” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time to develop.”

“I liken it to somebody who has been starving for a significant period of time and all the sudden you put all the food they need in the world there - they’re just not going to come back overnight,” he said. “So there’s a culture of poverty there which is very much a part of where we are in terms of resources and this isn’t just on the military side - this is on the civilian side.”

“I’m digging myself out of a hole in Pakistan and in Afghanistan,” Adm. Mullen said. “So there’s an argument to be made that I haven’t gotten to year zero yet with respect to that long-term relationship, and then that gets reflected in how the people look at this. Which I understand completely.”