- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday the next 12 to 18 months will be critical in reversing momentum gained by insurgents in Afghanistan, with nothing short of the war-torn nation’s security at stake.

Not only that, Adm. Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Our future security is greatly imperiled if we do not win the wars we are in.”

Further, he added, “The outcome of today’s conflicts will shape the global security environment for decades to come.”

Adm. Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appeared together on Capitol Hill to defend the Pentagon’s request to spend $192 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next 18 months. Of that amount, $33 billion would be spent to widen the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops there by fall.

At one point, Mr. Gates noted there will be another review of Afghan policy later this year.

“If our strategy is not working,” he said, “we will not just punch ahead blindly.”

Many anti-war Democrats are skeptical of endorsing such a hefty sum, even though President Obama has said more troops would be necessary to ultimately end the campaign.

“Rolling back the Taliban is now necessary, even if not sufficient, to the ultimate defeat of al Qaeda and its affiliates operating along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” Mr. Gates told the Senate panel.

Mr. Obama’s strategy is “our best opportunity” to succeed, he added.

Senate Democrats didn’t use Tuesday’s hearing to push back on the war spending, signaling that Congress would probably endorse it as many have predicted.

Sen. Carl Levin, the committee’s chairman, used his time to call on NATO allies to contribute more troops to train Afghan forces and to encourage Pentagon officials to keep an eye on other terrorist hotspots.

“We have already seen al Qaeda’s interest in places like Yemen and Somalia,” the Michigan Democrat said, “but we must attempt to ensure we are a step ahead of al Qaeda in places like West Africa and the South Pacific.”

Adm. Mullen said that while Afghanistan and Pakistan were “critical terrain,” the U.S. must deny al Qaeda safe havens elsewhere.

“These efforts will not require tens of thousands of American troops,” the admiral said. “Instead, we can work quietly and persistently with regional allies and coalition partners to deny al Qaeda territory from which to plot, train and project global terror operations.”

Adm. Mullen said that of the 30,000 additional troops that Mr. Obama has ordered to Afghanistan, 4,500 personnel have already been deployed, with another 18,000 scheduled to arrive by late spring. He said the remainder should be in place by early fall.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide