Much of the focus these past two weeks rightly centered on details of the President’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the process that led him to his final decisions. General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry were in Washington D.C. all week testifying in Congress to those decisions and to their views on the state of the insurgency in Afghanistan.
As I testified myself last week, I not only support the President’s decisions, I support the manner in which they were derived. More critically, our military commanders and I believe that this extended surge of 30,000 U.S. troops, coupled with additional contributions from our NATO allies, gives General McChrystal all the forces he needs in 2010 to reverse the momentum of a growing and increasingly lethal insurgency.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit with some of the troops who will shortly be deploying to Afghanistan to fight that insurgency. I thanked them and their families for their service, but I also urged them to think carefully about how they will accomplish the mission they have been assigned.
The debate is over. The decision has been made. It is time to execute.
That must be our focus now — our ONLY focus.
Less than 72 hours after the President’s speech, engineers, infantry, and civil affairs experts were ordered to Afghanistan. A battalion’s worth of Marines will arrive next week, spending their holidays in Helmand province, reinforcing the troops already there. We’re also accelerating deployment plans and I am confident we will be able to get the bulk of these troops to Afghanistan by mid-summer, with the remainder arriving in the fall. This is faster even than General McChrystal’s original intent.
We are on the balls of our feet, leaning forward, but no one is underestimating the scope of the challenge here. As I told the troops Monday in Ft. Campbell and Camp Lejeune, Afghanistan is not Iraq. We don’t have for that country a major logistics hub akin to the one we have in Kuwait. We don’t have in Afghanistan anywhere near the number of runways or rail hubs or road networks that exist in Iraq. Finally, we don’t have, quite frankly, the same ground to cover. As one soldier told me on my first visit to Afghanistan back in 2007, the terrain itself is an enemy.
That said, one of the real hallmarks of the American military, throughout our history, has been the willingness and the capacity to literally move mountains when required. It is required today, and I expect we will do no less.
– Adm. Mike Mullen
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