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Mullen Says He’s Relieved, Disturbed by Trip to Pakistan, India

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2008 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he came away from his recent trip to Pakistan and India relieved that the two countries showed restraint in wake of the recent attacks in Mumbai, India, but disturbed by the way a handful of terrorists held a city of 18 million people hostage. Video

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addresses the media during a press availability at Pentagon, Dec. 10, 2008. Mullen discussed a variety of subjects including the terrorist attacks in Mumbi and his recent visits to Pakistan and India in the wake of those attacks. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke with military and civilian leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi during his trip last week. The chairman visited to sound out leaders in wake of the Mumbai attack that killed nearly 200 people. The terrorists attacked the coastal city on Nov. 26 and kept the subcontinent’s financial hub in fear for three days.

Mullen arrived in the region Dec. 2 to assess the mood, and to impress on all sides the need for restraint and calm.

“I will not go so far as to say that tensions were then or are now completely eased in the wake of the Mumbai attacks,” Mullen said during a Pentagon news conference today. “You can imagine … the degree to which fear and uncertainty have gripped the Indian people, and just how strong was their desire for justice.”

The chairman said he sensed a real appreciation in Pakistan for the seriousness of the attacks and the growing threats of terrorism inside Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Toiba, a group Indian officials suspect in the seige, launched attacks inside Indian-controlled areas of Kashmir in the past, and is believed to have received aid from Pakistani authorities and outside financiers.

“I remain grateful for the restraint India has shown, and I'm encouraged by the news out of Islamabad that the Pakistani military has captured and detained several militants, including a key leader of the [Lashkar-e-Toiba] group,” Mullen said. The chairman said he expects more such steps in the future.

The lesson in the Mumbai attacks is to not underestimate the potential of terrorists, Mullen said.

“It shouldn't be lost on anyone how a handful of well-trained terrorists using fairly unsophisticated tools in a highly sophisticated manner had at bay an entire city and nearly brought to a boil interstate tensions between two nuclear powers,” Mullen said.

“This wasn't just an attack on Indians or Americans or Brits or even Jews,” he continued. “It was, rather, an attack on all of us who love the sacred dignity of human life. As we witnessed in our own country seven years ago, the tactic of terrorism can be a deadly strategic weapon.”

Since the attack in Mumbai, Pakistani army and police have raided the Lashkar-e-Toiba camps near Muzzaffarabad in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities arrested at least 20 Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists, including the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai terror attacks -- Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah.

In Pakistan, Mullen met with Army Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and President Bilawal Zardari. They assured him that Pakistan will cooperate in shutting down these terrorist groups.

In India, he met with National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Minister of Defense Shri A.K. Antony, and Chief of Naval Staff and Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Adm. Sureesh Mehta.

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