Mullen vs. Levin on Afghanistan

Created: September 15, 2009 13:10 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

As I pointed out a couple weeks ago when reporting on a joint press conference, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seems more comfortable with increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan than Defense Secretary Bob Gates does. And today, when Mullen, testified for his Senate hearing to be renominated as chairman, he made that very clear, as The New York Times reports:

“But I do believe that — having heard [Gen. Stanley McChrystal's] views and having great confidence in his leadership — a properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces, and, without question, more time and more commitment to the protection of the Afghan people and to the development of good governance,” Admiral Mullen said.

I wasn’t at the hearing, but I see that Mullen was challenged by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who proposed on Friday accelerating the deployment of Afghan security forces before considering an increase in U.S. troops. Mullen, The Times reports, diplomatically disagreed:

“I share your view that larger and more capable Afghan National Security forces remain vital to that nation’s viability,” Admiral Mullen said. “I share your view — and have stated publicly — that the path to achieving the president’s goal is through our training efforts there. We must rapidly build the Afghan Army and police.”

But he cautioned that sending more trainers more quickly might provide “a jump start, but only that.”