In a pair of interviews this morning, with CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave yet another grim assessment of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, but provided little hope for it ending.
“The Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated,” the Admiral conceded. “Their tactics just in my recent visits out there and talking with our troops certainly indicated that.” He said Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal would not ask for additional specific numbers of troops in his assessment, but suggested that such a request was likely forthcoming in the next several weeks.
Admiral Mullen also expressed “concern” over the flagging public support for the Afghan War, as several polls have shown that the American public is now firmly opposed to the continuation of the eight-year long war. He insisted, however, that the war would continue, because the president has ordered that it will continue.
During his Meet the Press interview, host David Gregory asked whether or not the massive escalation of the war and pledges of enormous government aid for nation-building exercises were not similar to the mission creep of the Vietnam era. The admiral insisted the mission from the beginning was to “get” al-Qaeda and that this required that the military build a brighter future for Afghanistan. He balked at questions of how much longer this would take, but said he’d have a better idea after another 12-18 months in the war.
Perhaps most incredibly, particularly since he spent so much of his time visiting Congress to defend President Bush’s assorted “new” strategies in the war, Admiral Mullen insisted this is the “first” new strategy the US has embarked on in the entire war. Whether this is selective amnesia on the admiral’s part or a concession that all the other “new” strategies he touted weren’t really new but were the same strategy of escalation and nation-building that has been failing since the 2001 invasion.