Chairman Discusses Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addressed the security situation in Iraq, the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Georgia challenge during a Pentagon news conference today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen – fresh from a mid-ocean meeting aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln with the Pakistani army’s chief of staff and key U.S. military leaders – told reporters he expects to deliver his assessment on the situation in Iraq to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and President Bush soon.
The situation in Iraq has been complicated by the loss of 2,000 Georgian troops who were called home, and changes in the “Sons of Iraq” citizen security program, the chairman said, adding that he, acting U.S Central Command chief Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander, are continually assessing the situation in Iraq with an eye to what follows.
The last of the U.S. surge brigades left Iraq in July, and American military leaders are examining the trends in the nation with an eye toward further troop reductions. Mullen said there is no specific date for any announcement.
“The situation does continue to evolve,” Mullen said. “Security trends continue to head in the right direction. Violence is down more than it's been at any time in four-plus years. The political process continues.” Those factors will figure into the recommendation that he provides to Gates and the president, the admiral said.
Still, if Iraq continues to make security gains, “I would hope to be able to make recommendations for further troop reductions … when those conditions are met,” he said.
The chairman said there is a “very real, urgent requirement” for more troops in Afghanistan. The United States has committed to deploying three more brigades to the country when it becomes possible to do so. “As far as the specifics of when we would get that done or how we would get that done, we just haven't arrived at that particular point,” Mullen said.
The United States sent Marines to NATO’s Regional Command South in Afghanistan in March. The 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment is training Afghan soldiers and police. The unit has “had an extraordinary impact there,” Mullen said. The 24th [Marine Expeditionary Unit has had “an extraordinary impact” in Afghanistan as well, he added.
The fight in Regional Command East is tough, and local commanders have asked for more troops. “We've got that request, and we're looking for ways to answer that,” Mullen said.
In Georgia, U.S. policy is providing humanitarian assistance, Mullen said. “That's where the need is right now, specifically on the military side. And so we're working hard to provide as much of that as we can.”
Mullen said the potential exists for confrontation between the United States and Russia in the Black Sea. Both nations have ships operating in the waters off Georgia.
“Part of what I did in my engagement when this crisis started was in speaking with my counterpart, and I was very straightforward about the fact that we were going to bring the Georgian troops back from Iraq,” he said. “I did that to make sure he knew what we were doing and that that same kind of communication is going on.
“Again, these ships are there supporting humanitarian assistance missions,” he continued. “That's what they've done and they will continue to do over time, based on what the need is. So the intent is to communicate.”