Following his recent three day visit to Afghanistan, Adm. Mike Mullen said “never has our partnership … been stronger, or the challenges we face, clearer.” During his trip, Mullen spent time in Marja, in Helmand Province, the sight of the recent offensive. He also attended a meeting with community leaders in Kandahar.
After spending time in Helmand Province, Mullen said that the security situation is improving, despite ongoing instances of intimidation. He also said that the offensive demonstrated effective cooperation between Afghan, U.S. and coalition cooperation.
“Many of the leaders [ in Marja] told me that the security in many places was much improved – the result of extraordinary partnering and Afghan leadership,” he said. “But so too, did they speak of Taliban intimidation, local corruption and a real economic need.”
Mullen hopes that some of the lessons learned in the operation in Marja can translate to the upcoming offensive on Kandahar, which is seen as the center of the insurgency.
“Nearly half of President [Barack] Obama’s 30,000 troop commitment has made it to theater, with more coming every month,” Mullen said. “They are coming to Kandahar – the cornerstone of our surge effort and the key to shifting momentum from the enemy to the Afghan people.”
Mullen also touched on the long-term U.S. vision of Afghan security being provided by Afghans. “We share the view that Afghan security forces, properly trained and equipped, can protect its citizens,” he said.
“We still work hard every day to create security conditions conducive to economic development,” Mullen said. “We’re undoubtedly making progress, as I saw myself. Many villages are safe again. The streets are filling, and the shops are open. I must applaud here the terrific work of the Afghan National Army,” he continued. “I heard from more than one American soldier and Marine how far the [Afghan army] has come in a short period of time. They fight bravely, they fight well, and they lead.”