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

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

Defense Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

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. Dawn in Pa

    I just wished that Bush had caught Bin Laden, we have to stop the wars....any wars is not going to bring peace...

    To many of out good men and women are fighting for freedom, lousy as it is, hug a soldier Month should be introduced, when you see a soldier, hug them and say, well done and come home in one piece.

    June 9, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. phoenix86

    12 to 18 months? Nah, Obama will retreat in 6 to 8. You'll seee.

    June 9, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Well right now the people of Pakistan are fighting back against the Taliban and if they can do the same in Afghanistan, that will be a major accomplishment. But let's not forget why we're over there in the first place. We need to capture/kill OBL and his deputies and totally dismantle their organization.

    June 9, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  4. Ray

    I just shake my head and wonder where this world would have been if Bush and Cheney hadn't all but abandoned the fight against terrorism to start their own private war.

    The costs

    Thousands of American lives needlessly lost. Even more thousands of Iraqi lives needlessly lost.

    Billions of American tax dollars spent in order to make a few influencial Americans even wealthier.

    A Middle East situation that's gone from bad to worse now that there is no Muslim state strong enough to counter-balance Iran.

    An America that is even more divided than almost any time in our history.


    June 9, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. Billy

    When is it never crucial? Just end the damn war and occupation.

    June 9, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. stuck in vermont

    I find it amazing that a story like this, one that actually matters and has far reaching implications for our nation, has no comments, yet the story about Joh Voight bashing obama has over 300. Is that where we are as a country where we care that much about the opinion of an entertainer?

    June 9, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Chris D.

    Bravo gentlemen....I agree fully and back a 1 year, year and a half strategy. I have already grown impatient w/ these wars, but i do feel we now have the right leaders in plce to wage this surge in Afghanistan......Let the American people see the results then we can decide wether to stay the course or leave the country.

    June 9, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  8. Ryan Indy

    On the verge of Victory there OBAMA will pull back because the "The MESSIAH" doesnt believe a SURGE will work? Obama is an embarrassment and a LOSER and all you blind sheep following him no matter what he does or says are PATHETIC....

    June 9, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  9. Randolph Carter

    Strategy schmategy. What we need is a really expensive missile defense system. That'll keep us safe. Have a nice day!

    June 9, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. S Callahan

    With so much going on in the world right now, and the destabalized brains of some of the leaders, one wonder if this would be cotton candy to what we have coming....

    June 9, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Texas Teacher

    I just read the article about the Afghan people forming a militia to fight the Taliban! What a joy to hear! I have said all along that once the People of Afghan realize that these Terrorists are just as much a threat to them as to foreign so called enemies, then and only then will this nightmare be over for everyone! Once the People stand up and say, "We have had enough! Stop destroying our country and our People!" then and only then can the rest of the world work to support them. And once that evil force who is fighting an empty war that hurts the People of Afghanistan as much if not more than the rest of the world, I know the rest of the world will rush to their defence and help them rebuild their country and their economy!

    Be brave, Afghan People, help us get rid of this cancer that is eating up YOUR freedom and killing YOUR young and old people senselessly for an empty cause! Surely God/Allah does not support this endless killing with no end in sight!

    June 9, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. DavidinCA

    It seems that if you are going to fight a war you go in with one objective...to win it and to win it as soon as possible. I don't hear that from what Defense Secretary Gates is saying.

    June 9, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. shoegazer

    There will be limited,if any success in the Afghan situation.History will tell you that.

    June 9, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. phoenix86

    As soon as Obama can find a way to blame Bush, we're outta there.

    June 9, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  15. quarterback

    Roosevelt took care of Hitler in 4 years.

    Bush couldn't find Bin Laden in 6 years.

    Because he took on Iraq, now we are worse off than in 2001.

    June 9, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Vizzini

    You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia... Have a nice day!

    June 9, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom

    That's right, Hitler was beat in FOUR YEARS by FDR!

    And after TRILLIONS of dollars spent by Bush....... we are still in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, now, whom the Soviets failed to beat.

    And still in Iraq.

    Hundreds of thousands of lives.

    How do you GOPers figure that President Obama will retreat when he has added thousands more troops in Afghanistan!? You people are silly.

    June 9, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. Art

    Either do it right or come home. By the way, where's Bin Laden?

    June 9, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  19. JonDie

    US military leaders including Admiral Mullen had had eight years to defeat the Taliban, or at least to come up with a strategy for defeating the Taliban somewhere down the road, and they've failed miserably on both counts.

    In fact, it's not even clear that we have a strategy now and it's very clear that during the first eight years of the conflict we had no strategy whatsoever...except to tread water and would no one, especially at home, noticed.

    Dawn in Pa said:
    "I just wished that Bush had caught Bin Laden..."

    We were too busy "liberating" Iraq for the financial benefit of our unelected corporate rulers to worry too much about bin Laden.

    "To many of out good men and women are fighting for freedom, hug a soldier Month should be introduced, when you see a soldier, hug them and say, well done and come home in one piece."

    No soldier fights for freedom anymore, our soldiers are fighting primarily to maintain corporate profits. Too bad most of them can't figure this out...and come home of their own accord.

    June 9, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  20. Ralph

    phoenix86 and Ryan Indy – Are you guys just goofing around, or do you believe the idocy you type? I'm genuinely curious. It's fine to have differing opinions, but an opinion is typically based on some sense of reality, and there is none in your statements.

    You see, Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan in order to try to finish the job and achieve stability. Are your comments against the war in Afghanistan? If you are against the escalation, that's one thing, but you seem to mistakenly think Obama is pulling back on Afghanistan.

    Maybe it's all my fault for expecting anyone on these boards to say anything of relevance.

    June 9, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  21. Kevin B

    phoenix86 June 9th, 2009 5:17 pm ET wrote

    As soon as Obama can find a way to blame Bush, we're outta there.

    Phoenix- You must be about 12 years old with the silly comment above.

    President Obama is finally focused on the real problem albeit 7 years late and I would predict if OBL is even alive, OBL will be found and the Taliban is in full retreat before this time next year.

    I am impressed with the focus and strategy implemented since this adminstration has taken office. With the taliban being routed in pakistan nad the build up in afghanistan, we are poised to do damage to these

    June 9, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  22. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Do you think CNN or the mainstream media, the congress, the president or the dope smokin libs will ever announce or even acknowledge Bush was right about Iraq? Remember the George Soros backed moveon,org Petraeus betray us? Remember Harry Reid saying the "war is lost." Look up all of the absolutely idiotic, insane things Barbara Boxer said (list may be too long).

    June 9, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  23. DaBird

    Hey Obama sheep, why hasn't your savior left Iraq and Afghanistan? Looks like his campaign promise was just another lie. He could leave right now. Your small minds still think Bush was wrong and all you can do is hate Bush and Cheney. Obama has served 1/8 of his term as President. Can't blame the Republicans for everything, but you will try.

    June 9, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  24. Tom

    I would be willing to bet every penny I have that the war in Afganistan will be in virtually the same state in "12 to 18 months" as it is now and possibly worse. Reality is it can't be 'won' by the American Armed Forces, never happen.

    June 9, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. Cali J

    Hey Lacrosse Mom,
    FDR had the support of all the American people and didn't have the press claiming innocent civilians were getting killed. WWII was a real war where it was all or nothing. We have to fight wars today in a Politically Correct fashion or Libs like you get upset.
    We didn't care in WWII if bleeding heart liberals didn't like us putting underwear on a POW's head. We cared only about winning at all cost. Those days are long gone because of political correctness, an anti-American media, and Liberalism.
    In WWII, even the press was on our side! CNN, The Huffington Post, and MSNBC can't wait for the next American Soldier who does something wrong. That's a better story to them than any American victory. They all want the next Abu Grahib.

    June 9, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
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