- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that the United States will be asking its allies for civilian help in Afghanistan during this weekend’s NATO summit.

“The most important support we could use right now is support in the civilian area,” Adm. Mike Mullen said on NBC’s “Today.” “We need a significant increase in the number of civilians to provide help in ministries in Afghanistan, but also to provide help in the economy. That aspect of moving forward together is really critical.”

The 60th anniversary NATO summit begins Friday in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany. Afghanistan is likely to get most of the attention at the summit, coming a week after President Barack Obama announced a revised war strategy.

The summit will be Obama’s first chance to appeal directly to alliance heads of government for more help in the deadlocked U.S. campaign to defeat the Taliban.

Since becoming president, Obama has ordered 21,000 additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan. Mullen said the first 17,000 of those “are very much focused on turning the tide specifically with regard to the violence level and providing security for the Afghan people.”

The remaining 4,000, Mullen said, “are principally focused on training. The exit strategy in Afghanistan is to have them provide for their own security, their police, their army, and those 4,000 troops will be focused on that.”

Mullen also acknowledged concern about the global economy, the topic of the G-20 summit that Obama was attending Thursday in London.

The financial crisis “could have a significant effect on stability around the world,” Mullen said. “I think that creates an additional sense of urgency with resolving that as rapidly as we can.”

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