June 9th, 2009
04:12 PM ET
14 years ago

Mullen: Next 12 to 18 months crucial for U.S. in Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/09/art.mullengates0609.gi.jpg caption="Defense Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The U.S. military has between 12 and 18 months to show whether the war in Afghanistan will be a success, and it may have to be done with fewer troops than in Iraq, according to the top men at the Pentagon.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, he does not underestimate the challenge in Afghanistan, but is positive they are moving in the right direction in defeating the Taliban and insurgent forces.

"We've got to reverse of trend of violence over the next 12 to 18 months, and I think it's possible," Mullen said.

"We have the strategy right, we're resourcing it right," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke alongside Mullen at the hearing and warned the conflict would not be over in 18 months, but hoped to at least see a shift in the momentum.

"I think what we are saying simply is that we think that the strategy needs to show some signs that it's working," Gates said, aware of the possibility of American citizens losing favor for the war.

"It's very important for us to be able to show the American people that we are moving forward by the end of the year or a year from now…I think the American people will be willing to sustain this endeavor if they believe it's not just a stalemate," he said.

By the end of this year some 68,000 U.S. troops, about half the level in Iraq, will be in Afghanistan, up from the 58,000 there now.

The additional troops were added at the request of commanders on the ground and approval from President Obama.

Gates expressed reservations about adding additional troops to the fight, and said Tuesday he knows all too well the lessons learned by the Soviets in Afghanistan fighting with more than 100,000 troops in the 1980s.

"If you don't have the right strategy and if you don't have the Afghan people on your side, you will not win in Afghanistan," Gates said.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Mike Mullen • Robert Gates
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Pat, CA

    Does anyone remember how many millions of Iraquis Saddam and his despicable sons destroyed? Can anyone really say that Iraq and the world would be better off with Saddam still in power? Saddam and his sons WERE the weapons of mass destruction !!!!!!!!!

    June 9, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  2. fed up

    Obama is turning into Bush-lite. He adopted Bush's timeline for withdrawing from Iraq, re-instated military tribunal's and now is escalating another unneccessary war. Extremely disappointing after promising so much change.

    June 9, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  3. Joe Terrogano

    You can not "win" a war on occupied soil! Why? Because the people that live there will not tolerate it. Remember Viet Nam? The Russian invasion of, duh, Afghanistan? Hitler's serial defeats across Europe and Africa? So this ethnocentric chest thumping, which has costs us AMERICAN LIVES and untold BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, will not end in a democratic Iraq or an end to terrorism. Wake up! It might end in the ruin of our country. What if North Korea decides to declare war on us? Who are we going to send? Newt, Rush (ha, ha), Steele? Grow up folks. We can not kick butt everywhere and it doesn't last.

    June 9, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. trcrnner

    Everyone needs to realize that it will be impossible to end this conflict in the near future. I was there for about 10 months, and even if we could get the bulk of the taliban out of that country they will always be there. There are very remote valleys where the people have no idea what is going on in that country where the tailban can easily hide and be pretty safe. As I have personally climed the mountains in that country i know that the places the taliban hide are supremely hard to get to especially with full combat load, sometimes we did not have enough time in the day to get to spots on the mountains. We are making progress (i have seen it) . Until the people put forth an effort themseleves (ie Pakistan) this war will not be over. When this war does end I feel that we will need a continued presence there so that no other group trys to take over. Their Leaders are weak and thier military needs much more training to be successful so that the people can stop living in fear.

    June 9, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. democrat no mas(Independant now)

    I was born during the final months of WWII. I well remember Korea, and Nam was my time. We are still fighting these smaller wars because we somehow stopped fighting like my Dad's generation did. If you're gonna fight, fight to win. War is not a reality show. Hitler should have been stopped in 1938, but at least when America got rolling, we fought to win.

    June 9, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
1 2