Admiral Mullen: US ‘Starting Over’ in Afghanistan

12 to 18 More Months to 'Turn This Thing Around'

by Jason Ditz, August 26, 2009

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen says that the Obama Administration’s massive escalation in Afghanistan is going to take another 12 to 18 months to “turn this thing around,” and he seems poised to ask for additional forces above what’s already committed to the war, though he is waiting for Gen. McChrystal’s assessment to hit before making specific recommendations.

But nearly eight years into the disastrous war, and with the American public seeming less and less eager to keep the conflict going, the admiral sought to distance himself and indeed the war effort from the last eight years of failure, saying that the military was basically “starting over.”

There is a newness here,” Mullen claimed, “there is a starting again, or starting over.” At the same time, they’re starting in a considerably worse position than they had eight years ago when they originally invaded.

Just last week Gen. McChrystal admitted that the Taliban was at its strongest point since the war began. A rising number of attacks have been setting new records for soldiers killed in the war, and Afghan voter turnout plummeted amid threats of violence and reports of corruption. As General David Petraeus put it today, “an enormous amount of hard work and tough fighting lies ahead,” one that will “require a sustained, substantial commitment from all involved.”

But with growing impatience, and in some cases outright opposition, to the US war effort among its allies (and among the US voters), such a commitment seems unlikely. Even if one was to discard the last eight years, the thousands of people killed, the hundreds of billions of dollars spent, the “new” war doesn’t look to have a very bright future, and the 12-18 month timetable to reverse the momentum seems remarkably optimistic.

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