SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Welcome, everybody. Today the committee meets to consider the nomination of Adm. Michael Mullen to a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The team of Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen has proved and provided excellent leadership and great continuity of leadership across two generations.
Admiral, it is a strong vote of confidence in you that President Obama has put your name forward for a second term. The committee appreciates the service that you have provided and your willingness to continue to serve and to lead. We also thank your wife Deborah and your family for their support to you and their sacrifices along the way. We know how vital that support is to someone with the responsibilities that you shoulder. And on behalf of the committee, please pass along our appreciation to the great soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines under your command throughout the world and to their families for their dedication and sacrifice.
As he enters into a second term, Adm. Mullen will focus on an array of challenges. Foremost among these is the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the security situation in Afghanistan is difficult, we still have important advantages there. The Taliban are detested by Afghans, who have experienced life under their brutal regime. The Afghan people know the bleak and hopeless future that the Taliban seeks to impose.
Another strong building block for a successful outcome in Afghanistan is that the Afghan military is a motivated force of proven fighters and is highly respected by the Afghan people. If we take the right steps, we can help ensure that Afghanistan does not revert to a Taliban-dominated government that once again provides a safe haven for al-Qaida to terrorize us and the world.
The Obama administration’s new strategy announced in March, refocusing on securing the Afghan people and partnering with the Afghan security forces, is an important step in reversing the spread of insecurity. The change in strategy has led our forces, in the words of Gen. McChrystal, to, quote, “live, eat and train together with the Afghan security forces, plan and operate together, depend on one another, and hold each other accountable and treat them as equal partners in success.” Gen. McChrystal’s guidance to the troops goes on to say that the success of the Afghan security forces is, quote, “our goal.”
To achieve that goal, I believe we should take several vitally important overdue steps. First, we need a surge in the numbers and strength of the Afghan security forces. We need to expand the Afghan national army and Afghan national police well beyond the current target of 134,000 soldiers and 96,000 police personnel by 2010. Most of the members of this committee urged four months ago in a letter the establishment of a goal of 250,000 Afghan troops and 160,000 Afghan police by 2013. Hopefully that goal will be adopted in the target set for the end of 2012.
Our own military in Afghanistan has repeatedly pointed to the need for more Afghan forces. As Col. Bill Hix, former commander of the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command, put it, quote, “The U.S. force is growing down here, but the Afghan force is not growing nearly as fast. We have people who are bleeding and dying, and we need to look hard at how we generate Afghan forces,” closed quote. A Marine company commander in Helmand, Capt. Brian Hausman put it this way. Quote: “The lack of Afghan forces is absolutely our Achilles heel,” closed quote. In the sector of Helmand Province that Sen. Reed, Sen. Kaufman and I visited earlier this month, our Marines outnumbered Afghan soldiers by 5-to-1.
We’ve been assured by Afghan Defense Minister Wardak that there’s no shortage of volunteers to reach this goal. We will need significantly more trainers to achieve this. We asked Gen. Formica, who is in charge of the American effort to train the Afghan security forces, to assess what would be required, including NATO and U.S. trainers, to meet that timetable. In the meantime, we should also press our NATO allies much harder to provide more trainers.
A larger Afghan military will require more equipment. There needs to be a major, urgent effort to determine these requirements and to transfer equipment coming out of Iraq to Afghan security forces to meet their requirements. A plan for that needs to be developed immediately.
We also need a plan for separating local Taliban fighters from their leaders. In Iraq, large numbers of young Iraqis who had been attacking us switched sides and became the Sons of Iraq. A similar prospect exists in Afghanistan. Afghan leaders and our own military leaders say that local fighters, most of whom are motivated not by ideology or religious zeal, can be brought over to the government side if offered the right incentives. Gen. McChrystal has said, quote, “There is significant potential to go after what I call mid- and low- level Taliban fighters and leaders and offer them reintegration into Afghanistan,” closed quote.
We can draw on the lessons from the Sons of Iraq in working with Afghan leaders to adopt and implement a plan without delay for turning some enemies into allies in Afghanistan. Such a plan requires assurances of protection and non-retribution, as well as prospects for jobs, including in the Afghan army and police. The potential positive impact of such a concerted effort should be taken into account in considering the need for additional U.S. combat forces.
The Afghan people want to provide for their own security. In a tiny village in Helmand Province, the three of us met with the elders at their village council or their shura. One hundred or so men sat on the floor and talked with us about their future and their country’s future. When asked how long the United States should stay, they said, quote, “Until the minute you make our security forces self-sufficient. Then you will be welcome to visit us, not as soldiers but as guests.”
Providing the resources needed for the Afghan army and Afghan police to become self-sufficient would demonstrate our commitment to the success of a mission that is in our national security interest, while avoiding the risks associated with a larger U.S. footprint. I believe these steps should be urgently implemented before we consider a further increase in U.S. ground combat troops beyond what is already planned to be deployed by the end of the year.
I’m going to place the balance of my statement in the record and call on Sen. McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I join you in welcoming Adm. Mullen and thank him for his service and his family for their support.
Admiral, I believe that you and Secretary Gates have done a superb job, and obviously you are extremely well-qualified for a second term as chairman. And we’re grateful for your long years of service to our country in uniform.
At your last confirmation hearing in July 2007, I made a statement then, and things were certainly not clear as to what we were going to do in Iraq. I said, “There are no easy choices in Iraq, and the temptation is to wash our hands of this messy situation. To follow this impulse, however, would portend catastrophe. Withdrawing before there’s a stable and legitimate Iraqi authority would turn Iraq into a failed state and a terrorist sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East. We have seen a failed state emerge after U.S. disengagement once before, and it cost us terribly. In pre-September 11 Afghanistan, terrorists found sanctuary to train and plan attacks with impunity. We can’t make this fatal mistake again.”
Despite our successes in Iraq and the hard-won understanding we have gained about what it takes to defeat an insurgency, it seems we now regrettably must have the same debate again today with respect to Afghanistan. In all due respect, Sen. Levin, I’ve seen that movie before. I’ve been encouraged over the past year by the statements and actions of the president and the unequivocal priority he has placed on achieving success in Afghanistan. In March, the president acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan is, quote, “increasingly perilous and that the future of this troubled nation is inextricably linked to the future of its neighbor Pakistan.”
To the terrorists who oppose us, his message was, quote, “We will defeat you,” unquote. The president’s approval of increases in troop strength was needed then, and I believe even more necessary now.
I’ve also been impressed, Admiral, by your commitment and that of Secretary Gates to success in Afghanistan. You’ve been clear that defeating the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban is a necessary component of the president’s strategy.
Gen. McChrystal, as we know, has completed an assessment of the challenges still standing in the way of meeting the president’s strategy, which clearly will be the requirement for increases troops. And I want to emphasize, every day we delay in implementing this strategy and increasing the number of troops there, which we all know is vitally needed, puts more and more young Americans who are already there lives in danger. I don’t think we should do that.
Soon Gen. McChrystal recommends how many additional troops he thinks are necessary. I hope we won’t delay the decision for long and will approve the troop increases that we know are being sought by Gen. McChrystal, working with Gen. Petraeus.
Sen. Levin obviously, as he stated, supports a significant acceleration in the growth of the Afghan security forces and an increase in the number of trainers we should provide. I agree with this approach. I strongly disagree with the wait-and-see recommendation that we should deploy no additional U.S. combat forces to Afghanistan until this action has been taken. I believe that this position would repeat the nearly catastrophic mistakes of Iraq and significantly set back the vital war effort in Afghanistan.
The lesson of Iraq is that we make little progress merely by putting Afghan volunteers through a training course and releasing them into combat. In fact, when precisely this approach was tried in Iraq, Iraqi units collapsed repeatedly in the face of attacks. It took mentorship at every level, including partnership in joint operations with U.S. forces, that built a capable Iraqi security force.
Similarly, mentorship at all levels is required to build a robust and capable Afghan military and pave the way for our eventual successful exit in Afghanistan. To do this, we will need more U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan, not less, or the same amount as we have today. Vital areas in Afghanistan are controlled by the Taliban and its surrogates today. It will require U.S. military force to shape, clear, hold and build in these areas. If we await the day when the Afghan National Army is increased in size and capable of carrying out all of these operations fully on its own, it may well be too late.
Admiral, as I express these views, I’m mindful of the stress on our force and the tremendous sacrifices being made by the men and women of the armed forces and their families. Admiral, I think I speak for all senators in thanking you for your personal efforts to address the welfare of our wounded warriors and to implement more effective policies aimed at providing improved resources to eliminate barriers to seeking help for the emotional trauma of combat, to prevent suicides and to do better in evaluating and responding to disabilities suffered while on active duty.
I also want to express my appreciation for the efforts you and Secretary Gates are making to improve our acquisition process. We have a long way to go. And as the secretary has indicated, our weapon systems must impose greater costs on our current enemies than they do on us. And the recently passed legislation, I hope, will further our efforts in that direction.
I hope we’ll hear more today about what steps need to be taken to improve the requirements process and on the rapid acquisition process. I urge you and Secretary Gates to continue to advocate in the strongest possible terms for the weapon systems we need for the readiness and effectiveness against our current enemies.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. McCain.
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: Mr. Chairman, Sen. McCain, distinguished members of this committee, thank you for hearing my testimony today.
I also thank the president and Secretary Gates for their confidence in me.
It’s been my great honor to serve as chairman these past two years; and if confirmed by the Senate, I will remain as humbled by the opportunity to continue that service as I will remain steadfast in the execution of my duties.
I’m joined this morning by my wife Deborah, who as you know, has also been steadfast in her commitment to the welfare of our troops and their families – not only during my term as chairman, but throughout this long military career we have shared. I value her counsel and her company. But more critically, I know that I would not be here – that I could not have endured the challenges presented me over the course of these 41 years without her love and unfailing support.
I would add to that the love and support of our two sons, Jack and Michael, both serving today on active duty in the United States Navy. They are but two of the 2.2 million sons and daughters of America I strive best to represent. And no decision I make or advice I give is done without thinking about the impact on our troops and their families. The truth is, our people have been stretched and strained by eight years of persistent combat in two theaters of war – not to mention the steady drumbeat of training and operations demanded by our security commitments around the world.
This strain manifests in many ways: fatigue and stress, marital and family difficulties, homelessness and an alarming number of suicides. We ought not forget as well the more than 5,100 troops killed since 9/11 or the 35,000 wounded – each one a noble sacrifice worthy of our solemn attention. Countless others suffer in silence with wounds we never see, the nightmares we never know. Physical or otherwise, these wounds of war represent a family’s life forever changed.
As do you on this committee, I am committed to improving the care that we provide now and into the future for all of these casualties and their families. And yet, for all this suffering and all this change, our people are the most resilient I’ve ever seen. They’ve endured much, yes; but they have also learned much and grown much.
Consider Iraq where only three short years ago many had given up on the effort. Today there’s no question that security is much, much better and that the Iraqi security forces are increasingly more able to protect their own people. Violence persists and al-Qaida still threatens, but we are now in a position – the Iraqis are now in a position – for us to continue drawing down our forces, due in large part to our great military men and women.
We have made great strides in wounded care, particularly on the battlefield. We’ve become more nimble in collecting, disseminating and acting on intelligence. Our Army has restructured itself to be a far more expeditionary force. The Marines have refined a new concept of expeditionary maneuver warfare, our Navy has taken back its rivering mission and our Air Force is revitalizing its strategic nuclear role.
But the biggest area of learning and growth has been in counterinsurgency warfare. Indeed, I believe we are today the best counterinsurgency force in the world – having learned anew so many valuable lessons over these last eight years.
As I noted, we didn’t get here without great sacrifice in blood and treasure. Our knowledge came at a heavy price. And now that we have shifted the main effort east to Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency grows in both size and complexity, we must apply that knowledge to the best of our ability. That is why I support a properly resourced, classically pursued counterinsurgency effort.
The president has given us a clear mission: disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven again. You can’t do that from offshore and you can’t do that by just killing the bad guys. You have to be there where the people are when they need you there and until they can provide for their own security. This is Gen. McChrystal’s view and it is my view – and that of Gen. Petraeus and the joint chiefs.
Now, not every lesson from Iraq will apply, but the big ones will: protect the people, connect them to the political process, enable them to provide for their own security. The enemy in Afghanistan is not the insurgent; the enemy is fear. If you can remove the fear under which so many Afghans live, if you can supplant it with security and good governance, then you can off them an alternative to Taliban rule. And if they have an alternative to Taliban rule, they will choose it.
To be sure, the president’s strategy is a regional one. Recognizing that the ideology shared by al-Qaida and the Taliban knows no border and that this area remains the epicenter of violent Islamic fundamentalism; and Afghanistan resistant to extremism, free of such sanctuary, will help bolster the efforts of neighboring Pakistan to become the same.
On the other hand, if the Taliban succeed in governing at the state level – as they have already succeeded in many local areas – al-Qaida could reestablish the safe havens they enjoyed in Afghanistan at the end of the last decade and the internal threat to Pakistan by extremism will only worsen.
So how best to prevent it; how best to provide for Afghan security and governance? Ultimately, it should be provided by the Afghans themselves. As you rightly pointed out last week, Mr. Chairman, I share your view that larger and more capable Afghan national security forces remain vital to that nation’s viability. 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. And I agree that we must develop more and better ways to peel away those not ideologically committed to the insurgency and reintegrate them back into productive society.
But we cannot achieve these goals without recognizing that they are both manpower and time intensive. More important than the size of the Afghan security forces is their quality; more important than the orders they follow is the leadership they exude; and more important than the numbers of Taliban we turn, are the personal lives they themselves turn around.
Sending more trainers more quickly will give us a jumpstart, but only that. Quality training takes time and patience. Private trust by the Afghans – so vital to our purpose – is not fostered in a public hurry.
Now, I do not know exactly what additional resources Gen. McChrystal may ask for and I do not know what ratio-to-training combat units he needs. We’ll get to all of that in the coming weeks. But I do believe that having heard his 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.
We can get there; we can accomplish the mission we’ve been assigned, but we will need resources matched to the strategies, civilian expertise matched to military capabilities and the continued support of the American people.
We also need to remember that we have other responsibilities, other threats to counter and other missions to complete. And that as we responsibly drawdown in Iraq and work toward success in Afghanistan, we must remain ready to deter conflict elsewhere, improve the capacity of our allies and partners and prepare for a broad spectrum of challenges both conventional and unconventional.
Again, thank you for this opportunity and thank you for all you do on this committee to support the men and women of our military and their families as they protect our vital national interests in these very challenging times.
SEN. LEVIN: Admiral, thank you so much for your opening statement and again, for your great service. Let’s try a seven-minute first round.
Admiral, has Gen. McChrystal submitted yet a request for specific additional resources for Afghanistan?
ADM. MULLEN: No, sir. He has not.
SEN. LEVIN: Has a decision been made on whether to commit additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan, beyond the 17,000 combat troops and the 4,000 trainers that the president approved in February?
ADM. MULLEN: No, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Has the recommendation been made by you or Secretary Gates to President Obama relative to sending to additional troops to Afghanistan?
ADM. MULLEN: Sir, we’ve made our recommendation based on the assessment, but not having received the request from Gen. McChrystal yet, we’ve not made no recommendation with respect to forces.
SEN. LEVIN: And how many of the 17,000 combat forces and the 4,000 trainers that were previously committed – how many of them have arrived in theater and when will the balance arrive?
ADM. MULLEN: They are all just about there. The balance will be there by the end of this month. The last group is really the fourth of the 82nd trainers who are at the end of their arrival, getting in place and will take over the mission – the training mission, these 4,000 soldiers, very quickly.
SEN. LEVIN: You’ve testified, Admiral, that an essential step in regaining the initiative in Afghanistan and to succeed there is to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces, the Afghan Army and police and empowering them to provide security for their own country.
Is the Afghan army respected by the Afghan people?
ADM. MULLEN: It is, from my perspective, the most respected institution in Afghanistan.
SEN. LEVIN: And are they committed fighters?
ADM. MULLEN: They are. They’ve been fighting for a long time.
SEN. LEVIN: Now, how many additional trainers is it going to take to build the Afghan army to, let’s say, 250,000?
ADM. MULLEN: The rough – the rough estimate is somewhere between 2(,000) and 4,000, in terms of overall trainers.
SEN. LEVIN: Is that additional to what’s there now?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: And what is there now?
ADM. MULLEN: Train-wise it’s about – I think it’s about 6,000, 6,500.
SEN. LEVIN: And how many of those additional trainers should be supplied by NATO?
ADM. MULLEN: As many as possible. The countries who are capable – and there are some very capable countries in NATO at training both police and the army – we would like to see them step up as much as possible.
SEN. LEVIN: And when you gave a number for additional trainers for the army, did that include additional – does that include additional trainers to the police, or is that a separate number?
ADM. MULLEN: No, that’s a – that’s inclusive.
SEN. LEVIN: Both?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Okay. On the equipment issue, would you agree that as we withdraw equipment from Iraq that a major priority should be transferring to Afghanistan the equipment needed to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces to provide for their security?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: And what – what is being done in that regard?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, in fact, your question, when (you ?) came back off this trip, caused us to focus to see exactly where we were. And I met yesterday with Gen. Petraeus and Gen. McChrystal – or had a VTC with them where we discussed this – and in fact, there are some 2,000-plus Humvees in Kuwait which are being refurbished that will be accelerated into Afghanistan – and the required focus on this, to make sure that we are moving that as rapidly as we can. And it’s also tied to their ability to absorb this and train to it.
SEN. LEVIN: And is that review going to be conducted to determine what other types and quantities of equipment –
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: – would be needed and usable?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir. Right. We’re doing a full-scale review in that regard.
SEN. LEVIN: And when will that review be completed?
ADM. MULLEN: I think we’ll know that within the next couple of weeks.
SEN. LEVIN: And will you make that available to us?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Is that going to take any additional legislation, do you know?
ADM. MULLEN: No, sir, it shouldn’t. I’m not aware of any right now.
SEN. LEVIN: All right. Gen. McChrystal has spoken – and I think you have, too, as a matter of fact, as has the secretary – about the great potential for reintegrating local Taliban fighters and getting them to switch over to the government side. Now, there’s a lot of differences between Afghanistan and Iraq, but one of the similarities could be that incentives for low- and mid-level Taliban fighters to switch from enemies to allies could be put in place. Number one, is a plan now going to be developed to put into place an approach in Afghanistan to reintegrate young Afghan fighters?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir. There’s a – there’s a British general by the name of Graham Lamb who is working – who did this in Iraq and who is now working for Gen. McChrystal and has initiated – I don’t want to overstate this – has initiated putting in place a program to do – to focus on mid-level and lower-level fighters who would like to turn themselves in and do so in a way, obviously, that – in which they are both protected and that they have a future, so, in that regard, similar to Sons of Iraq. SEN. LEVIN: Has that plan been worked out with Afghan leaders?
ADM. MULLEN: It is – it includes Afghan leaders in its initial inception, which we’re really at the beginning of right now. So we’re not very far down that road.
SEN. LEVIN: What’s been the delay in getting that done?
ADM. MULLEN: Actually, it just – it has not been an area of focus, and we haven’t had somebody there like – like Lamb to focus on it.
SEN. LEVIN: You know, this committee – I think over two-thirds of us signed a letter back four or five months ago on the question of the size of the Afghan forces. And we pointed out that the – excuse me – Afghan defense minister has called for an army between 250,000 and 300,000 soldiers. The minister of interior in Afghanistan supported the strategic increase in the size of the army. We urged you to declare a target at that time for end strengths for the army and the police to those levels. And I’m just wondering what has been the delay in adopting goals for the increase in the size of the Afghan army, given what our people on the ground say, which is their presence with us, obviously, as mentors, as partners is critical to the security for Afghanistan. What has been the delay in establishing the larger goals?
ADM. MULLEN: I think if there’s been any reason for a delay, it’s been where we are now in terms of our overall numbers, which is at 93 in the – 93,000 in the army, about 90,000 in the police. And the timing of your letter came right at about the time we were making a leadership change out there. Gen. McChrystal has embraced the requirement to grow these forces and grow them more rapidly. And I’m sure that that will be part of the output of the assessment, if you will, because we’re all very committed to making that happen. And I would – you know, I mean, I would assume that as a result of this assessment we will establish those goals. And I wouldn’t expect them to be far off from what we’re recommending –
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
ADM. MULLEN: – what was recommended before.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Adm. Mullen.
On this issue of simply relying on a build-up of the Afghan army, we tried that for several years in Iraq. As you may recall, by April 2004, in fact, the Department of Defense reported that there were 208,000 Iraqis either on duty or being trained for security units. The same month, attacks by Sunni and Shia – basically, the Iraqi army collapsed. And what we found out – that – we succeeded only after we instituted a practice of mentorship, including joint operations with U.S. combat forces at every level, that we saw marked improvement in the Iraqi forces.
Is there any – under any reasonable scenario, Admiral – a prospect that trained Afghan security forces can handle the bulk of the fighting over the near to medium term?
ADM. MULLEN: No, sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: If we followed such a course, do you think the situation in Afghanistan would improve or get worse?
ADM. MULLEN: I think it would probably continue to deteriorate.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you. Gen. McChrystal – excuse me, Admiral – Gen. McChrystal’s assessment of our strategy in Afghanistan has been closely held and is currently under review, as you stated, both in the Pentagon and the White House. The assessment, as I understand it, contains no resource requirements or requests for additional troops, but is instead being described as a new strategy for the president’s consideration and endorsement. Yet last March, didn’t the president adopt a new strategy for Afghanistan with considerable fanfare?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir. I think that the description of Gen. McChrystal’s assessment, that it’s a new strategy – and, in fact, he uses those words, but his use of those words is really focused on a new implementation strategy for the president’s strategy, which is how – which is the baseline for his review as he – as he arrived in command and conducted it. So Gen. McChrystal’s assessment assesses the president’s strategy in terms of – or the implementation strategy required to execute the president’s strategy which he rolled out the end of March.
SEN. MCCAIN: I’m not –
ADM. MULLEN: His is not a new strategy.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you. Obviously, a strategy, in order to succeed, requires an assessment of resources needed. Right?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: And resources – a vital component of that is manpower, right – personnel, right?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: Now, help me through why we have a restatement of the president’s strategy which was announced in March, and yet there is no recommendation on what is obviously the most important aspect, both strategically and domestically? I’m talking about politics here in the United States. Why would it take weeks and weeks to make an evaluation and reach a decision?
ADM. MULLEN: The process that we are going through is to have Gen. McChrystal assess it both for the president as well as for NATO. I mean, it’s a – it’s a dual assessment in that regard. And quite honestly, he found conditions on the ground tougher than he had thought. He went with Gen. Rodriguez, who had been absent about a year out of Afghanistan. He found it tougher.
And the importance of the fullness of that assessment and what it was going to take to implement the president’s strategy, to include, you know, a second part, which is, “Okay, here’s how I found it and these are the resources that I need” – now, he’s done extensive analysis to underpin those force options. And my expectation is that they will be submitted very – in the very near future.
The administration wants – wanted time to review it, in terms of what Gen. McChrystal found. And then – and one of the things that, you know, is very important to me is that whatever the strategy is – and right now it’s the 27 March strategy – is that we properly resource it.
So that’s just – that’s where we are today. And I would anticipate he will be submitting those – that request in the very near future.
SEN. MCCAIN: And as you stated this month, and I quote, “time is not on our side.”
ADM. MULLEN: No, sir. I have a sense of urgency about this. I worry a great deal that the clock is moving very rapidly. And there are lots of clocks, as you always – as you know. But the sense of urgency – and I, believe me, share that with Gen. McChrystal, who, while he is very focused on a change which includes partnering, a focus on the Afghan people, he is alarmed by the insurgency and he is in a position where he needs to retake the initiative from the insurgents, who have grabbed it over the last three years.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I thank you, Admiral. But then I am frustrated and curious as to why the president’s spokesperson yesterday should say it takes weeks and weeks. We’re restating a strategy. We know what the resources are and – that are required and yet it would take weeks and weeks. Meanwhile, quote, “weeks and weeks” go by and without the new strategy and the implementation of it – or, excuse me, the implementation of the resources recommendation, there are more and more Americans who are at great risk. And that is really, really bothersome.
And already in the media there’s speculation that the president doesn’t want to make an announcement on troop increases because of the present debate on health care. I believe that the president can do both.
Let me – let me finally ask, what do you anticipate the level of fighting to be as we get into the winter months here?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, each winter the fighting recedes. But last winter, it was significantly more than the previous one. And in discussions with Gen. McChrystal – there’s a term that we use and have used in Afghanistan, which is “the fighting season,” but, in fact, we don’t believe there’s a fighting season. We think it’s a 365-day-a-year fight for the people and for their support, so – and for them to be able to be put in a position to be governed by their country, by the institutions in their country. So the – much of the combat recedes, but quite frankly, in the winter it is just as important to be engaged with the people as it is right now. SEN. MCCAIN: And the sooner we get the needed resources over there, the sooner we can turn this situation around.
Mr. Chairman, I would strongly recommend that we do as we have in the past and ask Gen. McChrystal and Gen. Petraeus to come before the committee and testify so that we can better understand the situation both there in Afghanistan and what we can expect in the future.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Sen. McCain.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I-CT): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
First, Adm. Mullen, let me thank you for your really extraordinary service to our country. I think you’ve done just a great job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in every way. You haven’t always given us the answer that we have been looking for, but that really is exactly what we expect you to do. And you’ve shown great leadership here – great, really, grace under pressure maybe is the way I would put it. So I will enthusiastically support the president’s renomination of you for a second term. I appreciate it. Your wife has urged me to think twice about my support of that, but nonetheless I’m going to go forward. Yes.
In the opening statements of Chairman Levin and Sen. McCain, we, I think, see the dimensions of the beginning of a – of a very serious national debate about our presence in Afghanistan. It’s an important national debate that has to happen here in Congress and hopefully throughout the country. And in some senses, it is a debate that has not yet occurred in all the time we’ve been in Afghanistan. Our support of the war in Afghanistan was a natural response to the attacks against us of 9/11. And then after we went into – so there was almost total support of that. After we went into Iraq, Afghanistan, in many ways, including in the – in the debates here in Washington, became the other war.
It was even so during the campaign this year, where the differences – for president – between Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama really had to do with Iraq and both generally agreed on Afghanistan. In fact, then-Sen. Obama was really quite strong in stating that Afghanistan was the central front in the war on terrorism, a war of necessity; we could not muddle through. And to now-President Obama’s credit, as far as I’m concerned, he’s followed through on those statements, particularly with the announcement of a new strategy in March and the deployment of 21,000 additional American troops to back up that deployment. And I appreciate the clarity that’s emerged from the discussion that we’ve had here this morning that what Gen. McChrystal has been asked to do is not develop a new strategy for Afghanistan, because that’s been done; it’s to give a strategic assessment of where we are now and what we need to succeed. And in some sense for us to reject that assessment and the resources that are necessary to carry it out would be a change in the strategic decision that President Obama made earlier this year.
The strategic policy we’re following in Afghanistan does learn from the lessons of Iraq, although this is a – this is a different battlefield. The good news here is that there’s no dissent, even as we listen to the different positions that Chairman Levin and Sen. McCain have articulated about the need to succeed in Afghanistan, both because it would be inexcusable to allow the Taliban to regain control of that country and bring back al-Qaida – which, of course, planned the attacks on us of 9/11 and trained for them from there.
It’s also true – and I want to stress this, and you’ve said it yourself here I think quite eloquently – a failure in Afghanistan would have, I think, a devastating effect on our efforts to stabilize neighboring, nuclear Pakistan. There’s just no question about it.
So we start with those similar goals, and it seems to me the question now is how do we succeed. Chairman Levin has offered an alternative, which is to go with trainers for at least a year and then no additional combat troops. Sen. McCain has said we need combat troops now; we need more of them and as quickly as possible. And I agree with Sen. McCain, as you know.
I hear you to say this morning, Adm. Mullen, that based on the strategy that the president adopted, the new strategy adopted in March, and the strategic assessment that Gen. McChrystal has now given the president and you and Secretary Gates from the battlefield – though you have not seen the – and Gen. McChrystal has not submitted a specific request for specific numbers of troops – that your conclusion is that we need to send more combat troops to Afghanistan.
ADM. MULLEN: I said in my – in my opening statement that it’s very clear to me we will need more resources to execute the president’s strategy from the end of March. And I really await the submission from Gen. McChrystal, which I think is going to occur here very quickly, to evaluate specifically what that means and to look at the risk associated with various options. So it is – and this – maybe I can give a little better answer to the chairman on why we weren’t doing a program like the one Lamb – Graham Lamb is now in charge of.
We very badly under-resourced Afghanistan for the better part of four or five years. I’ve spoken about a culture of poverty. That’s been interpreted to focus on the poverty level in the country. That isn’t what I meant – and certainly, that is a problem. But we have a culture of poverty there amongst us in terms of being under-resourced in an economy of force for this extensive period of time to get to a point where we didn’t have the wherewithal to create a program like that – not that we didn’t think it would be needed. And so – and the totality of that under-resourcing is something we’re just coming to grips with. And it’s not as simple as trainers, or not as simple combat troops.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
ADM. MULLEN: It’s, are you committed –
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
ADM. MULLEN: – as the Afghan people look at it? Are you committed as the Paks look at it? There’s a regional area that is a – the epicenter of terrorism. And they want – every time I go – and I’m sure it happens to you as well – when you’re in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, the question that is on their lips is, “Are you staying or are you going?”
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Are you staying or you’re going to go –
ADM. MULLEN: “Are you with us or not?”
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right. And my concern is that – Chairman Levin I know is well intentioned, but if we just send trainers and don’t send more combat troops – particularly if it’s clear that Gen. McChrystal has requested them – then I believe the Afghan people and the Pakistani people are going to decide we’re essentially on our way out, and they’re going to make some judgments based on that and take actions that will not be what we’ll want them to do. Do you agree?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I’m very concerned about – I mean, they’re – the Afghan people are waiting on the sidelines for how committed we are. And quite frankly, so are the people of Pakistan.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
ADM. MULLEN: I said in my opening statement I believe in a fully resourced counterinsurgency. These are the lessons from Iraq –
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Correct.
ADM. MULLEN: – that we have learned. They were – have been very painful. And quite frankly, we need those lessons in a timely manner applied right now with the level of deterioration that we’ve had in Afghanistan, particularly over the last three years.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I agree. Last question, because I think you’ve said clearly today that the momentum, the initiative right now in Afghanistan – and Gen. McChrystal told us that when we visited him in August – is not on our side.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: And sending more trainers and more combat troops gives us a much higher probability of regaining the initiative in this critical battle.
ADM. MULLEN: The issue of regaining the initiative is absolutely critical. And General – I mean, I spoke to him yesterday. He emphasizes that each time that I engage with him.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Final question. Isn’t one of the lessons we learned from Iraq, in Anbar province, that the Sons of Iraq turned away from al-Qaida in our direction after they were confident that we were not leaving; in fact, we were going to surge our troops there? And isn’t it true that any effort to break away local Taliban who are not Islamic fanatics requires us, similarly, to convince those local Taliban that we’re committed to this fight, and if they come to our side they’re going to be winners, not losers?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Lieberman.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Adm. Mullen, for your leadership and service and all of the people who serve under you, your leadership. They’ve put their lives on the line to effectuate American policy that this Congress has directed them to do. Having sent them, we do need to listen to their advice about how to be successful.
I know sending more troops to Afghanistan is a bitter pill to me, but I do think that Sen. McCain, Sen. Lieberman and others have made the case in Iraq at a very, very difficult time that we needed to strengthen our presence, and if we did we could be successful, and actually things went better than we could have expected at this point in Iraq. And I’m inclined to think that we need to listen to that wisdom again, but I do believe that every area of the world is different.
I think Afghanistan is a different – to some degree than Iraq, but there are a lot of lessons that we can apply there. I won’t go into details about that today, but I do look forward to hearing from Gen. McChrystal and Petraeus, and we can fulfill our role – constitutional role in this process to examine the facts and make sure that we’re supporting good policy that will be successful.
Adm. Mullen, you’ve signed off on the president’s budget this year, or – I suppose it’s fair to say. Is that correct?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, –
ADM. MULLEN: I’m not sure it was a signature, but I certainly was – I’m certainly supportive of it.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, I don’t, and I’m worried about it.
What is the personnel increase that we expect to occur as a result of this budget? How many end – is it 30,000 troops, or –
ADM. MULLEN: Well, –
SEN. SESSIONS: How would you – what’s –
ADM. MULLEN: The one that is – I think you’re asking about is an increase of 22,000 for the Army – temporary increase over a period of about three years. And what it really addresses is the need to make up for losses which are occurring principally in our large units. So a brigade of 3,500, now it’s taking – it’s – the number of soldiers who are falling out before deployment have about doubled since the war started. And so we’re rushing other people into these brigades, and that 22,000 will essentially greatly reduce the churn at a time where we’re transitioning out of Iraq, we obviously don’t know what our final level or our level in Afghanistan’s going to be. And as we work to, given the overall requirement, get to a dwell time that’s increased from one-to-one to one-to-two, but principally it’s focused on getting at the churn that’s in the system. It’s not going to add any additional capability, and that’s why it’s – that’s why it’s temporary.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, we authorized – I believe Sen. Lieberman’s legislation authorized up to 30,000.
ADM. MULLEN: I think – yes, sir.
SEN. SESSIONS: So that you’ve decided, or the Defense Department’s decision is to do 22(,000). Does that mean that we’ve got – we’ll have 22,000 more people on the payroll?
ADM. MULLEN: Over the next – I think it’s going to take about – I think we’ll get an additional – an additional 15(,000) next year, ‘10, with a – and with 7(,000) more after that in ‘11. And then literally, to get back down, you got to start coming down pretty fast. SEN. SESSIONS: So you don’t see this as a permanent thing?
ADM. MULLEN: No, sir.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, I’m inclined to think the personnel certainly are needed today. And I support that, and I am worried about the dwell time of our soldiers and the redeployment rate. But I just got to say what’s worrying me to another – in another area is that the amount of money, once you fund this new surge of troops and you get a 3 percent increase in your budget and certain costs go up each year in maintaining your personnel and all the matters from energy to whatever in the Defense budget, that procurement and research and development are the things historically we see that get squeezed too much.
We have an obligation – this president has an obligation, this Congress has an obligation – to fund the development and procurement of weapons systems today that we may not see in the inventory five, 10, 15 years down the road. Do you – isn’t it fair to say that we should be concerned and very observant about the impact of this tight budget for the Defense Department on procurement and research and development, and perhaps other –
ADM. MULLEN: A lot of my life in Washington over the last decade has been spent in programming and budgeting. And the work that – and I worked very closely with Secretary Gates to submit the budget amendment, and was – and I’m very supportive of the decisions, hard as they were, that he made for programs that were running out of control, way overdue, costs increasing, et cetera, and others that didn’t conceptually made sense. A lot of very tough decisions. But it’s the best work I’ve seen, since the mid-90s, in my own – from my own personal point of view.
And, yes, there – clearly, if you have – and I am concerned about increasing personnel costs. When I was the head of the Navy, 60 to 70 percent of my budget went to personnel costs – that’s military, civilian and direct support of contractors who helped us in carrying out our mission. And that’s gone up. And health care is a big part of that, but it’s not exclusively that.
So I think one of the biggest issues we have, actually, in the Defense budget is how do we control that? How do we come to grips with those costs? I need every single person I need, and not one person more. And that’s very difficult, particularly when it takes up so much.
I’ve got to pay for my operations. That’s another big undertaking. And then what’s left is procurement and R&D. And so, when a budget gets tighter, clearly that’s where the pressure is going to be felt. And we do have to watch that.
At the same time, I think the budget focuses on, first of all, people – which is, if you want me to bet on the future, that’s what, that’s where I would put my next marginal dollar. Secondly, it focuses on the wars that we’re in. And I think the wars that we’re in have a lot to do with our future as well. We’ve learned an awful lot.
And then, obviously, it focuses on what we see in the future. And we’re trying to bring it into balance, not try to undo the future. And I think it took a significant step in that direction.
I’m mindful that it’s a lot tighter than it was, and that we have to be very vigilant about the things that we do, and we don’t – the things we buy and the things that we don’t buy.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, thank you. And I know you understand that, as a senior top uniformed military leader in the country, you have a serious burden in that regard. And I hope that you will examine the impact of this very tight budget.
I think our discretionary spending – 7, 8, 9 percent increase this year, not counting the stimulus. And the military got very little, almost nothing out of the stimulus, and only a 3 percent increase in the DOD total budget. So I hope that you will – and I expect that you will evaluate that and let us know to what extent some of these decisions are impacting adversely the military of the United States. Will you do that?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
And I’d only add that, as budgets have gone up over the last decade, one of the – one of the characteristics that evolves, or at least I watch it evolve, is we become less disciplined in our prioritization. We become less disciplined in our analysis because there are resources there that don’t have to be justified as much as when there’s additional pressure on.
So we’ve got to bring all those skills back to the fore – to the front, in order to make the right decisions. Sen. McCain talked about – and Sen. Levin both, this acquisition legislation, which is very powerful. Now we need to get at that. We need to execute it. And we need to make hard decisions.
And we don’t need the perfect solution. I don’t need the 100 percent solution each and every time, but I’m developing something. I need some high-end stuff. There’s no question about that. And it’s very expensive.
So all those things are in play right now and we, believe me, take that all very seriously.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Sessions.
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And, Admiral, thank you for your great service to the country over the many years, and your family. And you have led with great, not only vision, but decency, and I appreciate it very, very much.
ADM. MULLEN: (Off mike.) Thank you.
SEN. REED: Let me just, as a first point, I would think that – in turning to resource Afghanistan, the first place would be within CENTCOM. Is that your emphasis, to see if there are assets within CENTCOM, not only those that are presently there, but those that are scheduled to go there –
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. REED: – should be diverted into Afghanistan?
ADM. MULLEN: In fact, we’ve done a great deal of that already, inside the footprint that the president has approved for Afghanistan, to move resources that – intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, ground convoy, IED capability – you know, counter-IED capability to focus on force protection; the MRAP – meeting the MRAP requirement there as well.
So we are very focused on moving people and capability from Iraq to Afghanistan. And Gen. Odierno has been terrific in looking at his risk, understanding what the need is, and been very supportive.
SEN. REED: And there seems to be an emerging consensus on increased trainers, and just for the record. I think there’s a, as you point out, increased need for enablers. Where do we stand, in terms of the enablers – the road-clearing teams, the IR (sic) platforms, the –
ADM. MULLEN: Those that Gen. McChrystal has asked for, for this year, are on the way, basically through the end of this calendar year.
SEN. REED: He will presumably ask for additional?
ADM. MULLEN: That, again, clearly will be a part of this request. I just don’t have the details on that.
SEN. REED: All right.
One of the areas that has plagued us throughout our presence in Afghanistan is a lack of unity of effort. First, is the command-and- control problem. Second, there’s a, I think, a lack of coordination between our COIN operations and our counternarcotics operations. And then there’s certainly a lack of coordination between Afghan security forces, and ISAF forces and our forces; and then also our conventional forces and our Special Operations forces. Can you comment on – there’s no silver bullet here, but unless we get our, these issues improve dramatically, increased resources won’t help as much as they –
ADM. MULLEN: I agree.
And Gen. McChrystal has made this one of his top priorities – focus on the people, partner with them – and really the other one is to fix the unity of command. He’s very clearly going to put whoever the senior person is in battle space in charge of all forces, including the Special Forces.
We are standing up this three-star command, operational command, if you will, or tactical command, but Gen. Rodriguez is standing it up. As a NATO command, it will stand up by the 12th of October, and we’re on track to do that.
We all agree that the command and control has been far from ideal and that these steps and others to make sure that our unity of command and unity of effort is very visible and particularly to the Afghan security forces who we are working so closely with.
So he’s making major changes to address that issue. I don’t think it will ever be perfect, but it will be much, much better than it has been.
SEN. REED: Regardless, I think, of, you know, the presence of U.S. forces, the limiting factor appears to me to be the Afghan forces, not only in the long run, but in the short run. I mean, we’re operating now typically, as we saw in Helmand, with an American battalion and one Afghan company, but the impression I got from our commanders on the ground is, unless there’s an Afghan presence, it’s hard to operate not only tactically, but psychologically and symbolically, you send a very wrong signal that this is our war, not their war.
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I think that – the chairman pointed out, I think, the stories that came out when the Marines initiated their first operation and Gen. Nicholson talked about what I recall is about a 10:1 ratio. Certainly, we’ve got Afghans present, but they are very thin, and that gets to the whole issue of needing to build up those forces.
SEN. REED: Let me just – one point. When we discussed, upon our return, the training of the Afghan army, are we training – are we trying to train an army with battalion brigades, division staffs, or are we, because of this emergency, trying to focus on infantry companies and infantry company commanders, which you could probably produce much quicker than talented staffers?
ADM. MULLEN: Gen. McChrystal’s intent – I’ll take the 4th or the 82nd as an example. They’re going to break down into platoon-size units, and they’re going to focus at the platoon and company level specifically. There will be training certainly at company, battalion, and brigade headquarters level, but the main effort is going to be at that level.
SEN. REED: The civilian surge – I mean, to be blunt, military forces can buy time, but the success there ultimately will be some type of political accommodation, and right now the government of Afghanistan is dysfunctional within Kabul and not even present outside of Kabul. Is this civilian surge going well? Is it – if it’s a function of resources, should DOD kick in the money? I know Secretary Vilsack, for example, wants to send more agriculture people there, but he wants you to pick up the tab.
ADM. MULLEN: Best I know, there’s no shortage of funds to do this, and I liken it to Iraq. I mean, we are surging. It is not happening fast enough. It’s got Secretary Clinton’s attention. It’s got Ambassador Holbrooke’s attention. There are an awful lot of people working on it.
I mean, we’re just not a government that has been constructed to do this quickly, and there is a plan – and I think we’re a little bit behind that plan – to surge upwards of like 5 (hundred) or 600 to be there in the spring. But it’s the spring that – you know, they’re not there now. I mean, there are additional civilians who have arrived. There’s been a major change in the embassy. But it’s not happening as rapidly as it could, and we can’t do it without that help, first of all.
And, secondly, you talked about governance. I consider the threat from lack of governance to be equal to the threat from the Taliban, and we’re – both of those things have to be addressed.
SEN. REED: The presidential election is grinding to a conclusion. To what extent will that effect sort of the situation within Afghanistan, in your view? There is a possibility that there could be a serious crisis of legitimacy that will impair the ability of a very dysfunctional government to function at all. Is that a factor that we have to consider?
ADM. MULLEN: I think the legitimacy of the Afghan government at every level, not just the national level – I mean, that’s where the election is – is a real concern and that there needs to be a level of legitimacy that the Afghan people see in their government, whether it’s local to national, and there’s a great question about that right now, and so far, the elections are not helping.
I think we need to get through these elections, see what the results are, see who we’re dealing with, what’s the government look like, and move forward accordingly. But that issue of legitimacy is a huge, huge issue. SEN. REED: Thank you very much.
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Reed.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And we all appreciate your service, and I think you’ll be confirmed hopefully with everyone’s vote. I just think you’ve earned that.
Quite frankly, this is an opportunity to get an assessment about Iraq and Afghanistan and, you know, football season’s here at home, and I’m trying to think of an analogy from Sen. Lieberman’s question, it seems like we’re on the defense in Afghanistan. Is that fair to say?
ADM. MULLEN: I think that’s probably fairly characterized.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. In Iraq, we’re on offense? The Afghan – the Iraqi -people – do you –
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I mean –
SEN. GRAHAM: – security forces?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m not sure I’d draw it – I mean, clearly, we’re – we’re on a path to success with them. They’re – you know, the –
SEN. GRAHAM: Are we driving the ball in Iraq?
ADM. MULLEN: No, I think – I mean, in that regard, we’re certainly moving in the right direction.
SEN. GRAHAM: Do you think we’re inside the 20?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m not – (scattered laughter) – I’m not sure I’d say 20.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. All right.
ADM. MULLEN: But we’re moving towards the red zone.
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, okay. Good! That’s good. There we go. Get something I can understand here. The combined Afghan security forces and all coalition forces at this moment are not enough to reverse the lost momentum. Is that correct?
ADM. MULLEN: The – from what Gen. McChrystal said – what I said earlier about a fully resourced counterinsurgency – we are extremely concerned about the momentum that the Afghans have. I –
SEN. GRAHAM: How many – okay. Well, the answer then would be that, no, the combined coalition forces and Afghan security forces are not enough to change the momentum.
ADM. MULLEN: They have not so far.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. So there’s two paths we can take. We can wait and get more Afghans, or we can send more coalition forces and do the training.
Now let’s flesh that out a bit. How many tanks does the Taliban have?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m not aware they have any.
SEN. GRAHAM: How many airplanes?
ADM. MULLEN: None.
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, how are they doing this?
ADM. MULLEN: They’re – they’ve watched us. They’re very good at it. It’s their country. They know how to fight. They choose when to stay and when to go. They’re not a – but they are coordinating –
SEN. GRAHAM: Do they have –
ADM. MULLEN: More than anything else –
SEN. GRAHAM: Do they have popular support?
ADM. MULLEN: More than anything else, they’re intimidating the Afghan people. And, no, they’re not held in high regard at all by the Afghans.
SEN. GRAHAM: All right. So they’re not held in high regard. They don’t have an air force. They don’t have any armor. But they’re winning. So that makes me conclude something has gone awry in Afghanistan, and the biggest threat, in my opinion, is not the Taliban, it’s the governance. The only reason they possibly could have come back is because there’s been a vacuum created. Is that fair to say?
ADM. MULLEN: I would agree with that.
SEN. GRAHAM: And that vacuum is a combination of poor government and lack of troop presence. Would you agree?
ADM. MULLEN: It is – it is clearly the lack of legitimacy in the government at every level.
The people don’t get services from their government.
SEN. GRAHAM: Let’s find some common ground here. We could send a million troops, and that will not restore legitimacy to their government. Would you agree with that?
ADM. MULLEN: That is a fact.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. Now as to civilians, I just got back from a visit and I appreciate all of our civilians who are over there from different agencies. They’re very brave, but quite honestly they can’t go anywhere.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: You could send 10,000 lawyers from the State Department to deal with the rule of law programs, but they’re sitting on the base because if they leave the base they’re going to get shot.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: Do you agree with that?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: And the only way they get off the base is they have a military convoy, is that right?
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: And the same people who are driving them down to meet the tribal leaders are also basically the same people training the Afghan army and police forces. Is that right?
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: And they’re the same people fighting at night when they get attacked. So I just want our colleagues to know that the security environment in Afghanistan from my point of view will prevent any civilian success until we change the security environment.
How long would it take to train enough Afghan troops to change the momentum, in your view – if you just did it with Afghan forces?
ADM. MULLEN: Oh, I think it will take two to three years.
SEN. GRAHAM: What will happen in that two or three-year period, do you think, in terms of the security environment while we’re training?
ADM. MULLEN: If it’s – if we’re just training?
SEN. GRAHAM: Yes.
ADM. MULLEN: I think the security environment will continue to deteriorate.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. Well, it seems to me that we’ve got one more shot at this, is that right, Adm. Mullen?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, we’re looking at a big shot right now for sure.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. Do you understand you’ve got one more shot back home? Do you understand that?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes sir, yes sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. About 55 percent of the American people in the polls said that they did not support us staying in Afghanistan. What would you tell them as to why we should?
ADM. MULLEN: I’d say it is the epicenter of terrorism right now. It’s very clear that in fact al-Qaida is diminished while it’s living in Pakistan, and this is a Pakistan-Afghanistan issue. They are by no means dead. It’s a very serious threat. And that if we allow the Taliban to take control and run Afghanistan again, I think the likelihood that they would return to that safe haven would be high. And I’m very concerned about the deteriorating not just in Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan.
SEN. GRAHAM: Do you believe we have the right strategy with appropriate resources to win?
ADM. MULLEN: I believe we have the right strategy. The resource request will come in. And what I said earlier and what I will recommend in the future is this is how you properly resource a strategy.
SEN. GRAHAM: But the point I’m trying to make to the American people, you’re our top military commander.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: You’re our leader. You’re telling us that we’ve got a strategy you believe in. If we get it resourced the way that Gen. McChrystal needs, you think we can win.
ADM. MULLEN: We can succeed, yes sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Do our troops believe that?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. Now the rules of engagement, I’ve been informed by some colleagues over there that if an insurgent is captured under the ISAF rules of engagement, the NATO rules of engagement, they can be detained for 96 hours, then they have to be released.
ADM. MULLEN: Correct.
SEN. GRAHAM: And we’re limited to tactical interrogation during that 96 hours.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: That basically is how you doing?
ADM. MULLEN: Right. Well, –
SEN. GRAHAM: Not much more. Has this resulted in a catch-and- release dynamic?
ADM. MULLEN: There is concern about that, although since you came back, you know, I’ve discussed this with the leadership. There is an option – to certainly both inside ISAF, there is an option to stay longer. We get much more intelligence – and you could argue this both ways – much more intelligence from our special forces as a result of –
SEN. GRAHAM: They’re not under this rule.
ADM. MULLEN: That’s correct.
SEN. GRAHAM: They’re not under this rule.
ADM. MULLEN: And yet, there’s also –
SEN. GRAHAM: And they shouldn’t be under this rule, should they?
ADM. MULLEN: However, there is and this is Gen. McChrystal. There is a strategic vulnerability by the longer term detention in terms of being able to identify who’s been captured and who isn’t with the Afghan people.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, and I agree with that. That’s not – in fact, if I could make – Mr. Chairman, I just want to wrap this up for the benefit of the committee. In Iraq, we had 20-something thousand around in Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper, is that right?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes sir. And actually we’re going to close Camp Bucca momentarily.
SEN. GRAHAM: And I would argue it didn’t put too many in jail, but it did help clear the battle space in Anbar to have some breathing room to get some of these folks out of Anbar so we could kind of do our job. The balance that we’re trying to achieve is not to put everybody in Afghanistan in jail because that’s counterproductive –
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. GRAHAM: – but make sure that the really bad ones don’t come back after 96 hours. So I look forward to working with you and Gen. McChrystal, and I think you’re doing a heck of a job. And there’s no easy way forward, but there’s two outcomes – you either win or you lose, and I think everybody wants to win. We can have differences on how to get there, but I believe we can win and we must. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Graham. Sen. McCaskill.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Admiral, I am going to go back to a familiar subject for me which is contracting. I know we’re in LOGCAP IV, and that it was competed and that we have a number of companies working on it. But let me start with this. Can you today or for me at a later date tell me exactly how large is the contracting oversight on LOGCAP IV?
ADM. MULLEN: I’d have to get back to you with the details on that.
SEN. MCCASKILL: How about who is the number one military commander responsible for oversight of LOGCAP IV? Who would be at the top of the org chart?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, really in Afghanistan it would be Gen. McChrystal. And the – you know, who is the senior officer specifically assigned that responsibility, I don’t know.
SEN. MCCASKILL: I think, if possible, if we could get the information as to in theatre –
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
SEN. MCCASKILL: – who’s the command staff on contract oversight on LOGCAP 4 and in civilian.
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Who is, and what interaction are they having with this new contracting command. ADM. MULLEN: Well, as a – I mean, I can only say as a result of obviously some very difficult lessons from Iraq, we’re applying them directly in Afghanistan. And there is a great deal more both focused on this and numbers of people who are assigned to make sure that these contracts are not just let fairly but executed as we want them to be. The details of exactly who’s doing that and how much we have and what the proportion is, I’d have to get back to you.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Also to the extent that you can today or for the record reassure us that you all are being more aggressive perhaps than State has been in terms of the oversight of security personnel at your base camps. Clearly, we had after a lot of discussion about security contracts at the embassy in Kabul an entire hearing on it in June in the subcommittee that I work on on contracting oversight. We had those pictures that – frankly not only is it a matter of embarrassment for us in terms of security of our embassy, but as you well know, those pictures circulate quickly among our enemies.
ADM. MULLEN: True.
SEN. MCCASKILL: And it contributes to an image of America that doesn’t help us in terms of fighting this war.
ADM. MULLEN: Certainly, it’s a priority for us in the Department of Defense to make sure that never happens. But I will also tell you when I see an incident like that, you know, I start looking in my own house just to make sure I’m okay. And so we’re doing that right now to make sure that that possibility doesn’t exist.
We have a great deal more focus on it. We look at the contractors who are there very frequently to make sure they’re the right ones. It is a large number in Afghanistan. It’s some 71,000 right now. We don’t want it to grow any further than any more than it needs to. Yet, we are in many ways dependent on them. So I will be happy to get back to you with more details on our review as a result of what happened with the State Department contractors which has just been part of a prudent response as far as I’m concerned.
SEN. MCCASKILL: As you well know, we have the highest percentage of contractors in a conflict in the history of our nation right now.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Never before have we been at this level. The interesting thing is looking at the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of the makeup of that contracting force, and I would like you to try to put your finger on the difference in that in Iraq the vast majority of people that were hired by our contractors were third party nationals. In Afghanistan, it’s Afghanis.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. MCCASKILL: In fact, in March – and I don’t know what that number is right now, but in March the number of Afghani contractors was equal to the number of our troops. It was about 52,000 to 52,000. The vast majority of the contracting force in Afghanistan are Afghanis. Can you explain to me what the difference is there, and why is it that Fluor and the contractors, and I think Fluor is the one who has gotten most of the contracting so far on LOGCAP IV. What is the difference there? Why are we using so many Afghanis? And is this our substitute for sons of Iraq?
ADM. MULLEN: This is a very clear strategic shift to focus on and guide, and the number I saw as of the end of June was 52,000 out of 71,000.
So it’s about two-thirds of the – our locals. And quite frankly the strategic guidance is there – there is invest in this country and invest in the people and in that regard it does have the same kind of impact that Sons of Iraq does.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Are you asking that the contractors hire Afghanis?
ADM. MULLEN: I think the guidance is to do that where they have the capability. I couldn’t tell you what the contract says in terms of their requirements, but clearly their results are exactly that.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Well, I would – you know, to – we may take a more extensive look at this down the line in another location, but I would be very interested in knowing how this came about and where – if this is part of – you know, if indeed this is part of the strategy, I think it’s something that we need to be aware of as to how it’s working, because clearly – I mean, if we’re fighting Taliban, the thing that worries me about this, they’re good, they’re smart. I just want to make sure we’re having enough clearance here.
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
SEN. MCCASKILL: I mean, these people are coming into our bases, they’re feeding – they’re doing the food, they’re – you know, they’re constructing, and we had bad things happen with electricity and showers in Iraq. I mean, I’m glad that we are using Afghanis, but it does concern me on the security end that we’re taking the steps necessary to make sure that we inadvertently are not inviting some of the enemy up close and personal.
ADM. MULLEN: I’ve heard – I certainly understand your concern, and I’ve heard of no examples of that. I mean, I’ve actually discussed this when I’ve been in Afghanistan about – with the leadership there, the military leadership, about how we assign or how we determine this and the feedback I got was again it’s going to be Afghani first if they have the skills to do this. And that’s where the contractors are headed.
I’ll – certainly those who are in charge are aware of what the possible threat could be and we – I know there is a very – I know there is a vetting process that they certainly go through to hire –
SEN. MCCASKILL: Well –
ADM. MULLEN: – and I just don’t – I’m not anymore versed in that right –
SEN. MCCASKILL: I’d like to be more comfortable about that vetting process –
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
SEN. MCCASKILL: – and you know, I’m a little cynical because I saw the kind of lack of oversight that occurred in Iraq –
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
SEN. MCCASKILL: – and I trust that you’re trying. No one has talked about the recent allegations about the Pakistani Army and what’s going on in the Swat Region as it relates to extra-judicial killings –
ADM. MULLEN: Right. Right.
SEN. MCCASKILL: And my time is up, so I will leave that question to the next round or perhaps another member will – but I’m interested in your take on that.
ADM. MULLEN: Okay.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. McCaskill.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-MN): Thank you.
Adm. Mullen –
ADM. MULLEN: Hi, Sen. Collins.
SEN. COLLINS: How are you?
ADM. MULLEN: Good.
SEN. COLLINS: Good.
Let me begin by thanking you for your extraordinary service. We are so fortunate to have you at the helm, and I just want to echo the praise of my colleagues and tell you that I look forward to voting to reconfirm you in the important position that you hold.
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you, ma’am.
SEN. COLLINS: Counter-insurgency strategy requires a unity of the military and the civilian effort. We have heard, and will continue to hear, a great deal of discussion over the critical issue of whether or not we should send more combat troops to Afghanistan, but there has been relatively little discussion of the civilian side of the counter-insurgency effort, and that really concerns me.
When I visited Camp Leatherneck last month with my colleagues, I had lunch with a group of Marines that had ties to my home state, and they told me that they cleared the Taliban at great cost, incurring casualties, going village by village, and it was hard work, but they were successful and they were proud of their success. But they told me that their frustration is after they clear the Taliban out, that there’s no follow up, that the civilian capacity does not come into to build the institutions that everyone agrees are essential to provide an alternative to the Taliban, and that has led me to conclude that we’re not focusing enough on the civilian side.
I left Afghanistan uncertain about the road ahead in terms of more combat troops, but I am certain that we need a surge in the Afghan Army, and I am certain that we need a civilian surge. When I was in Helmand Province, I learned that we had thousands of Marines, like 10,000 Marines. We only had like 800 Afghan troops, which infuriated me, and we only had dozens of American civilians. Perhaps there were more NATO civilians.
What should we be doing to search the civilian side? Do you believe that we need to place more emphasis on a civilian surge?
ADM. MULLEN: There’s been a great deal of emphasis placed by all of us, but in particular Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Holbrooke, Deputy Secretary Lew, et cetera, and – so there is a great deal of focus on this. I – as I look at the numbers, it is a matter of the – you know, the machine just can’t turn them out very quickly, and I share your concern, although I was with those same Marines a month before, and I was actually taken back by the civilians who rolled into those villages, literally right – the next day.
So it’s very spotty. Some places we can do it and some places we can’t, but we have to have that, and what ends up happening is if we – if the civilians aren’t there, we do it, but in those same villages, I’m guessing the Marines are now doing that until they’re relieved and that’s just not going to change, and that’s what we did in Iraq and we’re – so we’re in some version of that right now.
I think a lot more focus. I think they will get there more quickly than we did in Iraq. The president’s strategy was the 27th of March. Gen. McChrystal got there the 13th of June. You know, one of the challenges we have right now is we’re just getting the pieces in place of the President’s strategy. Ambassador Holbrooke has done that – has worked across an array of requirements to try to get the rest of the comprehensive piece of this strategy going, but it’s just starting to get laid in, and I think it’s not going to have – we won’t know where we are with that quite frankly probably until the springtime, and sort of that first burst. SEN. COLLINS: But it’s complicated also by the rampant crutch –
ADM. MULLEN: Yeah.
SEN. COLLINS: – in Afghanistan, and if we’re going to have an effort after the Marines have cleared a village to prevent the Taliban from returning, which was the frustration I heard, if we’re going to have that alternative to Taliban rule, isn’t our task made much more difficult by the widespread corruption and the shadow over the legitimacy of the recent presidential election?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, ma’am. There’s no question. The Afghan government needs to at some point in time appear to be – you know to actually be – have some legitimacy in the eyes of its people, and the core issue in that regard is the corruption piece, and in many ways it’s been a way of life there for some time, and that’s got to fundamentally change. That threat is every bit the threat that the Taliban is.
SEN. COLLINS: Exactly. And we need to treat it that way.
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, ma’am.
SEN. COLLINS: Finally, Admiral, I’m going to submit for the record a letter that really disturbs me that I received from John Bernard, who is a retired Marine whose son was killed in Afghanistan. And his son was the Marine whose picture became so controversial and I am so grateful to Secretary Gates and to you and others who tried to convince unsuccessfully the AP to not publish that horrible image, which will be the last image that this family has of their beloved son.
But Mr. Bernard, who as I said is a retired Marine himself, wrote me a few weeks before his son was killed in Afghanistan, and he expressed serious concerns about the rules of engagement. He told me that he felt it put his son and others needlessly at greater risk, and that in our commendable and very American attempt to prevent civilian causalities that we were placing our troops at far greater risk.
I’m going to send you the letter so that you can read it. I promised Mr. Bernard at his son’s funeral that I would do so, and I hope that you and Gen. McChrystal will look seriously at the concerns he raises about the rules of engagement. I can’t tell you how tragic this was to have received the letter and then what this father feared most indeed happened just a few weeks later. So I would very much appreciate your reading his letter.
ADM. MULLEN: If I may, ma’am, I thought what AP did on that was unconscionable, unconscionable to that family.
SEN. COLLINS: I agree.
ADM. MULLEN: And the issue of rules of engagement is one, obviously, we all take extraordinarily seriously. The directive – I mean, we were, in my view, putting ourselves in a very bad strategic position in terms of being able to succeed with the number of civilians that we were killing, and I don’t think we really understood that. I think it took too many incidents for us to get that right.
Gen. McChrystal knows that. We also believe that getting this right in the long run will actually result in fewer casualties. That doesn’t mean that risk isn’t up higher now given the challenges that we have and the direction that McChrystal has laid out. So I understand that.
SEN. COLLINS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Collins. Sen. Begich.
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for being here, and I know it’s a confirmation hearing so let me just make this quick comment on that, and that is I think you’ve done a very good job. I’m looking forward to your next two years; I’m looking forward to supporting you. Now that’s off the table, now let’s move on to the other issues.
I actually want to – Sen. Collins brought up an interesting point. I had an interesting call last night from my father-in-law, who’s a retired colonel, served in Vietnam, Army colonel, and actually had the exact same concern. So as you receive that letter and if you do respond in some formal way, I would like to be shared on that if I could and see how – I mean, his comment was interesting and he – 20- plus years in the military, but his concern was, you know, we’re engaged or we’re not. We’re not halfway in.
And, you know, we have to make a decision of what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. So I’d be very interested in your – if you do a formal response and I would be interested in that. Which leads me to a bigger issue. You know, back – and I have gone over to Afghanistan; I’ve gone over to Pakistan and it’s a very eye-opening experience to say the least. But back in earlier spring this year Gen. Petraeus was here and I asked a specific question.
And I know you said in your opening comments you can’t answer ratios, but I want to put this comment on the line and maybe your response in general. And that is based on his own ratios of 20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 population – and in Iraq it was much higher toward the end, it was in the 24, 25 range, give or take, per 1,000 – if you use that ratio, based on the populations from our own data that we have on the population, even with our surge that we have now, with the goal of Afghan troops and police and all the other security personnel, we’re going to be short under that ratio 350,000 if we use that ratio. And that was Gen. Petraeus’ ratio.
And the concern I have is Iraq is a different environment geographically and otherwise; Afghanistan is much different, harder, as you have well defined. So how do we get there? I mean, that is a huge number. And then, the second part of that question is what are our allies going to do and what is their role going to be? Because what I keep hearing and seeing is diminishment of their role and responsibility, which concerns me, especially from Alaska where we’ve lost 12 more troops in the last 90 days and dozens of casualties. So I’d be interested in first those two questions.
ADM. MULLEN: Let me take the allies first and I’ll come back to the ratio, if that’s okay. SEN. BEGICH: Yes.
ADM. MULLEN: Actually the allies, over the last year-and-a-half or so, have actually increased their numbers fairly substantially. Now, compared to the numbers that we have –
SEN. BEGICH: Right.
ADM. MULLEN: – and I just think – I’m enough of a realist to believe that that’s just – it’s not going to increase, we’re not going to get tens of thousands of more troops should we have a request for them from our allies. But they have – they have some quality capability, they actually put several of the countries, NATO countries, put more forces in to support security for the elections. And there are 41 countries that have military civilian capability in Afghanistan supporting this mission.
SEN. BEGICH: Can I interrupt you for just a second?
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
SEN. BEGICH: Have they increased significantly the combat front- line folks?
ADM. MULLEN: No.
SEN. BEGICH: That’s my point.
ADM. MULLEN: No, but they have actually put some. I mean, the forces, the security forces for the elections were all combat forces and I think –
SEN. BEGICH: Okay.
ADM. MULLEN: – then, you know, there’s a question is are they going to – will they leave them there after the elections?
SEN. BEGICH: Right.
ADM. MULLEN: I don’t know the answer to that. But they’ve actually over the last couple of years put in a significant additional number from their perspective, and I think that’s important. And as this resource request comes in, I think, you know, NATO is going to also have to deal with it as well and look at what they can do. So the training piece, which they do pretty well, both police and Army, you know, may be an area that they can add additional capability. The civilian piece as well. So we would look to that. So they’ve gotten better. From my point of view they’re more committed but we’re never going to see an extraordinary addition of resources come from our allies.
Secondly, on the ratio piece, the 20 to 1,000. I hope that’s 50 to one; I used to be able to do that kind of math. (Laughter.) Basically the number – the number we focus on is about 51. First of all it’s a guidelines, and if you do the math clearly with the forces that we have there right now, we’re not close to that. You can also – but I think Gen. McChrystal would sit here and tell you his biggest concern is East and South. That doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges in the North and in the West, but – so we have to be careful with this. We use it as a guideline, not as the absolute answer that hey, if you’re not at 51 you don’t have a chance. We just don’t believe that.
But clearly we need to kept that in mind as we move forward and look at where the threat is and see what the ratios are there, which we do. So as we look at his request that will come in and ask for resources that will support his view of where he stands, certainly we’ll have that in mind. But we’re not there– in the classic sense, we’re not there, we’re not close.
SEN. BEGICH: Let me – but I would say we’re not there even I think in these high intensity areas.
ADM. MULLEN: Correct.
SEN. BEGICH: Let me follow up on a couple of other things, and the way I see this, and I’m anxious to hear Gen. Chrystal’s recommendations but this is a two-part. I mean, it’s civilian, it’s military. It’s a combination and will his recommendations to you look at the whole spectrum or just the combat component with a little bit of notation in regards to the civilian component because so much of the State Department participates in that. How will that approach come to –?
ADM. MULLEN: I think you described – the second way is how you described –
SEN. BEGICH: Yeah.
ADM. MULLEN: -He will address The Hartford military side and in our review, certainly at the Pentagon, as well as through the administration, we’re very specifically looking at the broader requirement as well.
SEN. BEGICH: So you’ll look at the bigger picture – you’ll see these pieces –
ADM. MULLEN: Well, the State Department is, but certainly the administration, the White House is looking at the integrated view of all the requirements here.
SEN. BEGICH: Okay, and last cause my time is up. When, I know you said in short order, what –- how do you define that? That time that he’ll give those recommendations?
ADM. MULLEN: I said that so I wouldn’t have to define it.
SEN. BEGICH: I know that’s why I’m asking you. I noted that question was not specifically answered by each person –
ADM. MULLEN: I think, you mean –
SEN. BEGICH: Do we get submission?
ADM. MULLEN: I think in the next couple of weeks.
SEN. BEGICH: Couple weeks to you. And then from there you and the president –
ADM. MULLEN: We’ll go through the same process, I mean, Secretary Gates and I. And I’ll, this is a process we’ve used over the last several years where I will then review with the chiefs, we’ll review it with Petraeus. Petraeus will endorse it, first of all with his view, bring it into the chiefs, we will essentially look at it and then –- and we’ll take it to Secretary Gates –- and then he’ll make a decision and we’ll move it across the river at that time.
SEN. BEGICH: Very good. Thank you very much, my time is up.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you Sen. Begich.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. And Adm. Mullen, I too want to thank you for your commitment and your service to our country and also the service of your family and the commitment of your family.
This is difficult times that we’re in, you’re gone from home a lot and without strong support of your family, we wouldn’t have the commitment from you. So we thank both of you there.
I want to get to Afghanistan, but first I want to ask a couple questions about Iraq. We obviously just celebrated the eighth anniversary of September 11. We’re getting close to the eighth anniversary year of going into Iraq and now these are difficult times still in Iraq. It’s pretty obvious that that is the case even though we’re downsizing.
First of all downsizing on track, you see any potential changes in the schedule of reduction in forces?
ADM. MULLEN: No sir, I think we are basically on track. We’re very focused on the elections in January to provide security and really – I’m sorry – support for the Iraqi security forces between now and then.
And we have had levels of – you know –- we have had violent incidence. And all violence is not gone. Al Qaida is not gone.
And so one of the things I do worry about is making sure that I spend enough of my time, that we don’t lose focus there, because we have come so far. Although most –- I think –- most of the effort between now and the end of 11 is really political.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: We have been training security police and military personnel in Iraq basically since we got there. I remember visiting with Gen. Petraeus early on in that conflict where he was in charge of that training. And we’re now seeing that spike in violence that you talked about with the downsizing of American troops.
Were the Iraqi military police and the –- excuse me –- the Iraqi military as well as security police read to assume the challenge that was given to them when we pulled out of the major areas?
ADM. MULLEN: By and large yes sir. The attacks of a couple weeks ago in Baghdad certainly got everybody’s attention. To his credit I think Prime Minister Maliki reacted very strongly, so did the security forces.
They saw that as a wake-up call. They’ve adjusted and they’ve adjusted very quickly. And what I get when I talk to Gen. Odierno specifically and Gen. Petraeus about that, they’re very satisfied with the adjustment.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Moving to Afghanistan in that same vein. You indicated that it will be another two to three years before you think that the Afghan security police and their military are capable of providing any kind of meaningful defense. How do you see the difference from the training in Iraq and the training in Afghanistan?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I think it’s –- I mean –- basically focused in a way that we know what we need – we know what they need to learn. It is a huge challenge because of the illiteracy rate with the Afghan soldiers and police. It’s at the single digit level, sort of 9 or 10 percent. Yet, we’ve got a program with the army where we’ve put that in place to increase their literacy level. We haven’t done that with the police, we’re just starting to do that with the police right now. So we know that that’s going to be a requirement.
I have much more confidence in our ability to train and get the army to the level that they need to get, and execute operations, which they’re doing right now even at the 90,000 that exist right now.
I’m much more concerned about the police, as I was in Iraq at about the same point in time. Where we never thought we’d make it with the police there as well. From the Ministry to out in the field in about 2007, which is a couple years after Gen. Petraeus had started that work, it finally started to turn. So that’s why I say two to three years.
But I don’t think from a training standpoint we’re done. If I were to look at Iraq that was 2004, you were talking about –- it’s now 2009 – and so there will be a longer term requirement.
And yet, these forces that we’re generating, the army and the police, you know, they’re in the fight pretty quickly. So it’s not –- we don’t have to wait until then –- it’s just that I think it’s going to be about that length of time before they’ll really be able to take a grip.
And I worry about, as violence increases there, our lesson in Iraq was, the police and the security forces got worse. I mean, just because it was really violent and my expectation is we’re probably going to have to go through some of that in Afghanistan as well.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: You preempted my next question relative to the literacy rate as you and I discussed in my office a couple of weeks ago. That what I understood the literacy rate to be was about 30 percent and both you and Gen. Petraeus have kind of deflated me there. That was bad enough, but you just indicated about a 9 to 10 percent and –
ADM. MULLEN: Well, don’t quote me on that, that’s what I understand to be the –
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Well, whatever it is its low. Which means that at some point in time when we think we have achieved military success, we still got to look at the other side. When we leave there’s got to be some kind of economic foundation left there for the Afghan people to be able to survive.
With a literacy rate of somewhere, let’s assume it’s in the teens or assume its 20 percent. That means 80 percent of the people in that country can’t read and write. What’ll we do – how do we leave that country in a state, non-militarily, that they can survive?
ADM. MULLEN: I think first of all, they’ve got to have security. They just –- that’s the necessary condition, that they’ve got to have enough good governance to be able to survive. I mean –- and that includes things like rule of law and institutions that provide things for them that just aren’t there right now, goods and services.
But it also has to have some level of economic underpinning and I don’t underestimate the challenge there as well. It’s one of the five or 10 poorest countries in the world. So there’s got to be some economic improvement. Not unlike Iraq in a sense or just about any insurgency or counter-insurgency, it’s a three legged stool and you got to be able to do security, you got to be able to do development, create jobs as well as a level of governance.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: My time is up, but we talked with Gen. McChrystal last time he was here about the National Guards from various parts of the country going into agricultural areas and providing rather than military security cover, agricultural training services. Is that program still –
ADM. MULLEN: It is. I think –- I can’t remember how many brigades now or how many states, but it’s like six or seven states that continue to do this to provide agricultural expertise out of the Guard. And it’s had a big impact and we’re going to continue that.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thank you very much Admiral.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you Sen. Chambliss.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman and aloha Adm. Mullen.
ADM. MULLEN: Aloha Sen.
SEN. COCHRAN: I would want to thank you very much for your outstanding and dedicated service to our nation over these years. You’ve shown outstanding leadership as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and I also want to congratulate you for –- on your nomination to continue to serve in this position. And also I want to add a welcome to your lovely wife Deborah to the hearing.
Admiral, I’m interested in Afghanistan momentum. We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan now for about eight years; we are facing a more sophisticated and resilient insurgency than any time since 2001. My question to you is what could be the long term effects if we fail to quickly regain the initiative and reverse the momentum in Afghanistan?
ADM. MULLEN: I worry a great deal about essentially it becoming a failed state and a safe haven. And while not immediately, maybe the mid-term affects that that has on Pakistan. And the President’s strategy and I strongly agree with this – it’s a regional strategy. It involves both those countries, even though they’re both sovereign countries, they have links that go back through the ages.
And there are other countries in the region and I think we need to be paying a lot of attention to this as well, India being a specific one. And it’s very difficult to predict here. It is actually – I think what has happened in Afghanistan as difficult as it is, has contributed to the diminishment of Al Qaida even in Pakistan.
So it is the combination of efforts in both countries I think that is so important, to get at what is the core goal of the President’s strategy which is Al Qaida. I worry –- I don’t know for sure but I worry a great deal that if the Taliban retake Afghanistan, that in fact clearly the option is there to recreate that safe haven where they’re pretty comfortable.
ADM. MULLEN: And then the long-term effects of that, I think, could be very disastrous for us and our national interests, assuming al-Qaida is somehow able to both plan and execute attacks, which they are planning to do today.
SEN. AKAKA: As you mentioned, Pakistan begins to play into our strategy. The administration’s goal in Afghanistan and Pakistan is – and let me quote, “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future,” unquote.
Admiral, assuming we are able to defeat al-Qaida, how would you propose that we accomplish the last part of the goal of preventing their return to Afghanistan or Pakistan?
ADM. MULLEN: I think if the country of Afghanistan has a strong enough government and a strong enough security force, they can prevent them from coming back. And that doesn’t include – at least, clearly, it doesn’t include the Taliban under their current leadership.
I also – and the “defeat al-Qaida” piece – and it does focus on al-Qaida, but these terrorists and extremists, particularly in recent years, have become much more linked. So yes, it’s al-Qaida, but it’s also the Taliban; it’s also LeT;, it’s also TTP, it’s JuD, it’s JeM, and all of them have the same kind of outlook.
Now, each one of them does not – does not threaten us directly, as a country, but the totality of this epicenter there, in terms of the terrorists who are there, is one that I am extremely concerned about, led by al-Qaida.
SEN. AKAKA: Admiral, our military continues to shoulder a huge burden in the Middle East and South-Central Asia. It seems the number of deployed forces in Afghanistan will remain high and there are reports that there might be a request for additional troops, and so that concerns me about military readiness.
If we continue our current pace of operations, how would you assess our readiness to counter future threats abroad?
ADM. MULLEN: At the current levels, and with the – which includes the plan to draw down in Iraq, we actually will start to increase dwell time, which is, nominally for the ground forces, particularly the Army, one to one. Actually, the Marine Corps – because we’ve built three additional battalions, they’re coming out of Iraq now, the Marine Corps deployment level ratio – I’m sorry, dwell time is out to about one to 1.5 for its main units. There are some units whose – it’s ratio is one to one. So we’ll be able to increase that dwell time.
And that will happen over the period of about two or three years with the Army as well. Gen. Casey says about 2011 or 2012, assuming our levels don’t go above – assuming we come out of Iraq and our levels in Afghanistan don’t go too high, that he also would be able to increase that dwell.
That buys us some recuperation time, which we need for our troops and our families, for our gear as well, but it also will allow us to start training for other missions.
So we’ve clearly accepted additional risk, globally, focusing on Iraq and Afghanistan. That is how we would move forward here. I would be, first and foremost, concerned about just the recuperation time for our troops and families, while at the same time getting ready for those additional possibilities.
SEN. AKAKA: Admiral, I applaud your continued efforts to be a strong advocate for our wounded warriors. During a recent speech, you stated, and I quote, “Time is of the essence when it comes to finding better treatments for traumatic brain injuries,” unquote. Admiral, what more can be done to better treat traumatic brain injuries?
ADM. MULLEN: I spend a fair amount of time with my wife, Deborah, visiting what I would call “centers of excellence,” certainly in the VA world.
I was recently up in Boston and I was struck at the advancements that are being made there by the Boston VA, and their relationships in the community, with Harvard, and Boston U., and other institutions – educational institutions and research institutions which are contributing. And I think – and I know Secretary Shinseki has this as a priority as well.
I think that we – the Department of Defense and the VA must work as hard as we can together to surface and then fund these things. Some of what I saw there, there were studies that were going on for three or four years, and I – that actually had some good information, and so what are we doing with them?
We’ve got to know what’s going on and then execute – and basically take it and do something with it. And I just believe we’re on the – we’re on the beginning, we’re in the beginning stages of this, eight years into war notwithstanding, that we’re really just starting to get a focus across the full spectrum that addresses these kinds of issues. So I used the VA hospital as an example, and I think we need to do this throughout the country.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Admiral.
My time is expired.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Akaka.
SEN. THUNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And, Admiral, thank you for your great service to our country. I do want to add my support for your reconfirmation. Thank you, your wife and family for their service as well.
There are some tough things that we’re involved with, and of course you’re in the middle of it all, and I know much of the focus today has been on Afghanistan, as it rightly should be. And I have one question with regard to that, but I’d like to ask a couple of other questions, if I might, quickly too.
And I, like everybody else, want to – in this country, want to see us succeed in Afghanistan and be able to put together a strategy that would allow that to happen. To me, that I think means preventing terrorist organizations from being able to create safe havens in that country, and also making sure that we’ve got a well-trained Afghan army and police force that can maintain security and take over more of the fight.
And that’s why I’m a little bit concerned about there was a – last Tuesday NBC News aired a story from a reporter that was embedded with a U.S. Army unit on patrol in Afghanistan, and one particular aspect of that report caught my attention. There was a report that highlighted the – how the U.S. forces are not allowed to search private dwellings due to cultural sensitivities, and so Afghan soldiers search Afghan residences.
Yet the report also noted that the Afghan army soldiers are reluctant to support the coalition in the more dangerous aspects of the mission. And it went on to say that while the U.S. soldiers searched a wooded area, this NBC report stated, and I quote, “It’s so risky, bombs easily hidden in this brush, Afghan soldiers refuse to go in,” end quote. And that’s what I found troubling about that report.
And I guess my question is, is this report an isolated case, or does the Afghan national army often refuse to perform dangerous missions?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m not aware that they do. And their reputation is such that they’re good fighters, and that our relationship with them is very strong. You’re speaking to the directive that – or direction that, actually, I think it was Gen. McKiernan put out before Gen. McChrystal got there, and I know McChrystal concurs with this, is we just were doing ourselves a lot of damage by entering those homes ourselves, and, strategically, we were really hurting ourselves.
But I am not aware of a rampant kind of incidence that you just described, where the Afghan army isn’t in the fight. And, in fact – and it’s not an army story, but it’s a police story, I think in the last couple of months, I mean, the Afghan police have upwards of 150- plus of their officers killed. Sometimes – they have also sacrificed greatly. All the problems that we do have in the police – and they are plenty, but we’ve had an extraordinary number of sacrifices there as well.
But, I certainly haven’t gotten that kind of feedback. And I can check and see if it’s different from that –
SEN. THUNE: Well, it was a news report. But I guess it gets to the broader question of, as we place more and more burden on the Afghan army and the Afghan police to perform, just do we have a level of confidence that they will perform up to our expectations? And as we begin to, at some point, hopefully to hand off, that they can continue to provide security –
ADM. MULLEN: All the feedback I’ve gotten is, yes. That doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges. I mean, I think – and I hope the report is only isolated, but I think the report speaks to the complexity of the challenge of both training, and executing, and getting at the, you know, and getting them into the fight.
And it is an enormously complex environment, mission, et cetera, but I’m just not aware of any kind of extensive incidents like that, that you describe.
SEN. THUNE: Good.
To shift gears for just a minute, there was a September 10th, 2009 article in The New York Times, and the headline read that, “U.S. Says Iran Could Expedite Nuclear Bomb,” and that American intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran has created enough nuclear fuel to make a, quote, “rapid sprint for a nuclear weapon.”
I know that there are conflicting views about when that capability will exist. And I guess I’m interested in your thoughts about how quickly Iran could develop a nuclear weapon if they decide to make a “rapid sprint” to that end.
ADM. MULLEN: Those time frames generally run, for me, one to three years. What you’re talking about, what that article spoke to, is break – what I call a break-out capability. In other words, they develop enough of the technology; and then they make a decision – the Supreme Leader makes a decision to go; and from there it takes a period of time.
And, as you indicated, and I think the article indicated, there are various views of what that takes. But it is clear – everybody is sort of in that ballpark, one to three years.
ADM. MULLEN: So it’s not like it’s a long way off should they decide to do that. My personal belief is that the Iranians are on a path. They want to develop nuclear weapons and I think that would be an incredibly destabilizing outcome for part of the world that is already pretty unstable.
SEN. THUNE: You had stated in your answers to some of the advanced questions that with regard to current negotiations over the follow-on START Treaty that the proposed range of 500 to 1,100 strategic delivery vehicles and a limit of 1,500 to 1,675 warheads would be sufficient to maintain U.S. strategic deterrents.
And I guess my question has to do more with the delivery vehicles, but do you really mean to suggest that the U.S. would be able to maintain its strategic deterrent and nuclear umbrella to allies at a level of 500 strategic delivery vehicles?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m very comfortable at 500 to 1,100. It is a range; that’s where the negotiations are. At some level coming down from 1,100, I get pretty uncomfortable with our ability to do that. And that’s really for the negotiators to figure out and obviously, what our strategic deterrent will be.
What I’m equally concerned about is the need for us as a country to invest in this capability in the industry for the future, which has been under invested in or not invested in for a significant period of time, so that we can have –- we can have a deterrent force that is technically current and reliable.
So it is that range. At that range, at the high end I’m very comfortable. At the low end, I’m pretty uncomfortable.
SEN. THUNE: Has –- do you know has DOD done analysis at the low end?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir. We have.
SEN. THUNE: Is that something that would be available to Congress?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m not sure. I’d have to I mean, pretty much anything is that you want –- (laughter) –- but I’d have to –- it’s been a few weeks. I’d have to go back and look at it to see. And as you know, we –- our country’s right in the middle –- the administration’s right in the middle of negotiating to get to a follow-on –- START follow-on by the end of this year.
SEN. THUNE: Right. I just –- making –- obviously, that has significant –- requires signification force – force structure changes –-
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir. I understand that.
SEN. THUNE: And so maybe you have to –- submarines, bombers, ICBMs –- something would have to be eliminated. So I just wanted to –- if the departments carefully studied that, I just wanted to –
ADM. MULLEN: We actually know where the break points are. I mean, or –- you know, analytically we’ve looked at this, so we know where tough decisions have to be made as you come down. And decisions about is it a triad or is it a dyad and what would it take if we sustained a triad, even at lower levels, which could, you know, be very, very expensive.
So all of those things are – actually, I’m very comfortable with the level of analysis that we’ve done with respect to that.
SEN. THUNE: Okay. Well, I’d be interested in following up with you, if that’s something that would be available to us.
ADM. MULLEN: Sure.
SEN. THUNE: All right. Thank you – thank you, Admiral.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Thune.
SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Adm. Mullen, thank you so much for being here. I thank you for your work, for your service.
And to your wife Deborah and to your sons, I thank you so much for your family’s sacrifice. It means a lot –- I know.
And I do think that you are certainly well qualified for a second term. So thank you for doing that.
I wanted to ask you a question about Afghanistan. I think that succeeding in Afghanistan requires partnership built upon the strong relationships that we have with the Afghan government, national security forces and above all, the local populous. It’s essential that our strategy in Afghanistan is centered on protecting the Afghan people from the Taliban, which we’ve talked about; enabling the Afghan governance and reconstruction; and enabling the capacity of the Afghan national security forces.
And as Secretary Gates as indicated, we must ensure that Afghanistan has the appropriate intelligence, law enforcement and internal security capabilities to sustain the long-term opposition against the Taliban.
Our troops and resources in Afghanistan must be used to build trust with the Afghans, move to the next phase of counterinsurgency tactics and enable the Afghan government to conduct development and reconstruction operations. Our U.S. troops have to be perceived by the Afghans not as the problem, but rather as part of the solution.
Has the department began discussing the resourcing effort with the Special Operations community to execute the president’s Afghanistan strategy –- specifically, the theater Special Operations forces needed to train the Afghan national army and police and the strategic Special Operations forces needed to conduct the combat operations under the domain of the Joint Special Operations Command?
ADM. MULLEN: We think that clearly the Afghan special forces are a very capable group of –- part of the Afghan military. So there’s great emphasis there. And as we move forward –- and I think in the strategy –- in the McChrystal review of the president’s strategy as he took leadership –- took command there –- the priority to focus on the Afghan people and also train and equip the Afghan forces writ large –- special forces, army as well as police – is a top priority.
We have not –- because he hasn’t submitted a request yet to say, given this, these are the forces that I need –- but I’m confident that inside that, the totality of that request will be embedded a request for a certain amount of Special Forces to get at exactly the issue that you’re talking about.
And that will come in great part out of JSOP, among others, and out of Tampa in the totality of our Special Forces –- who are as pressed as any other part of our military, quite frankly, and are so exceptional in what they do.
So it will be –- I believe, as I look at it right now –- a very important part embedded in the fullness of the counterinsurgency approach, because these forces are. And so I’m confident that that request will come it. We just don’t have it yet.
SEN. HAGAN: Let me ask you a little bit about Pakistan – I believe that the stability of Afghanistan is dependent upon the stability of Pakistan; and I believe that the Pakistani government’s beginning to recognize that the Pashtun insurgency in the FATA area is a threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty. We need to enable the Pakistan army and frontier corps with the capacity and capability to conduct sustainable, direct-action missions against the more dangerous elements of the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida in Waziristan. And unlike the Swat region, Waziristan is populous, mountainous and remote –- characteristics that are not conducive for a conventionally trained Pakistani army.
We also need to work with the Pakistan government and military to deny the safe havens for the Afghan Taliban’s high command, currently based out of Quetta in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.
Though Gen. McChrystal’s assessment deals with our civil affairs strategy in Afghanistan, can you provide an update on the department’s strategy along the Afghan-Pakistan border? And of particular note –- it’s interesting to me, since the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg is currently based in RC-East and Major Gen. Scaparrotti is the regional commander in RC-East.
ADM. MULLEN: There has been a lot that has been changed in the last year in Pakistan with what the Pakistani military and the frontier corps have achieved. And I think it’s important to recognize that, because a year or two ago, there were many people who were very skeptical that they would do anything. And they’ve had a big impact. It hasn’t been perfect.
We are there to support them where they are asking our support. That said, it’s only going to go as fast as they want it to go. And that’s –- I’ve been there I think 13 times –-
SEN. HAGAN: Wow.
ADM. MULLEN: It’s very clear to me that they very much appreciate the support; but it’s going to be at their pace –- even though we would like –- many of us would like to see it happen more quickly.
He’s got a two-front threat. The Pakistani’s military also –- you know, they consider their principal threat –- their existential threat –- to be India, not these extremists. They are increasingly concerned about the extremists, which is why they’ve addressed them. He’s started to train his forces in counterinsurgency, which a year ago or two years ago they didn’t do much of. He’s rotating them and he’s had some pretty significant positive impacts on it.
In addition to the Quetta shura, I’m as concerned about the Haqqani network, which is north of there, and which is sort of the centroid for feeding Afghan Taliban in and out of Afghanistan killing our people and killing Afghan citizens.
So there’s a –- it’s still an extraordinarily dangerous border. I think it will be for the foreseeable future. We’ve actually had success in diminishing al-Qaida leadership and it’s not as strong as it was, but it is still very lethal and still very focused on us as a country –- planning to still execute attacks against us and other western interests.
So there’s been progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go. From the overall strategy standpoint, we’re still very much invested in Pakistan. We think that’s an important long-term relationship. They still ask the question: “Are you staying or going this time?” – not unlike the question that gets asked in Afghanistan.
The Sen. Kerry-Sen. Lugar bill is very important, as far as I’m concerned, because it’s not about the 1.5 billion (dollars) a year as much as it is a five-year commitment to Pakistan.
So our strategy is, I think, much more comprehensive with Pakistan than it used to be. That said, it’s a sovereign country and they’re very much in charge of their own country.
SEN. HAGAN: Thank you. I see that my time is out.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Hagan.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. WEBB: And Admiral, I’d like to add my thanks to you and Deborah and your sons for all the years of service that you’ve given our country, and also to express my appreciation for the integrity and forthrightness that you have brought to this job. I can tell you that it is greatly appreciated on this side of the river. And having spent five years in the Pentagon, I know it’s appreciated on the other side as well.
There’s been a lot of talk about Afghanistan. I’m going to ask some questions on that. But before I do, I would like to point out that, as you know, we’re doing this Quadrennial Defense Review, and it’s a very important one with a new administration in.
And I hope that we don’t lose sight on either side of the river of the larger aspects of national strategy that sometimes fall away at the expense of short- and mid-term ground commitments that can affect force structure in the short term but really not play out to our national advantage in the long term.
And in the interest of time, I have two questions that I would like to submit for the record on that. One of them relates to the size of our Navy. The other regards the roles and missions of the Marine Corps. And I will submit that for the record.
With respect to the situation in Afghanistan, there’s been discussion earlier about whether this is a new strategy or an ongoing strategy. The most important point, I believe, is whether this is a valid and achievable strategy, whether we have attainable goals that are clearly articulated – to our side, to the other side, and to the American people – and whether those goals have an understandable end point so that we know when we are done, particularly in a military sense. And what you are attempting to achieve or what the administration says that it’s attempting to achieve is, in some ways, without historical precedent.
We’ve had a lot of discussion today about Iraq as something of a touchstone here. But as you know and I know, for better or worse, the Iraqis have been used to, in the past, to a strong central government, strong national government. And they also have, for a very long time, had a national army. Hundreds of thousands of Shia are known to have died in the war against Iran, fighting in the national army of Iraq.
And it’s a different situation with respect to Afghanistan. I wonder if you would comment on the historical precedent, or lack thereof, for what you are attempting to do right now. ADM. MULLEN: Well, I worry a great deal about – I think history is something we must pay attention to, recently in Iraq and the things that we’ve learned there, the things that are the same and the things that are different; obviously the history in Afghanistan, which has rich lessons as well. And it’s a country that’s never been governed centrally, and I certainly understand that.
I don’t argue for a strong central government in Afghanistan. I think it’s important that there is governance that is available to the people at every level. So in the totality of governance that I would look at for the future, it would be from village to some level of relatively weak central government that isn’t corrupt more than anything else in terms of establishing some semblance of governance for the future.
I hear the discussions about an occupying force. I think McChrystal said it very well not too long after he got there, that it isn’t necessarily how big; it’s what you do with what you have and how the Afghan people –
SEN. WEBB: In the interest of time, my readings are that in the history of Afghanistan, the largest national army, actual national army, was somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000.
ADM. MULLEN: In 1979.
SEN. WEBB: And your goals with respect to a national-level force are at what level?
ADM. MULLEN: Right now, for the Army, 134 (thousand).
SEN. WEBB: National police, military combined?
ADM. MULLEN: Right now it’d be about 240 (thousand), 230 (thousand).
SEN. WEBB: So in the absence of an affiliation with a national government, what is the challenge to building a national military and police force of that size?
SEN. WEBB: Well, I think the challenge is huge. The only thing I would say is that, as a percentage of the population, the goals that are out there – not just these, but even the goals you may hear tied to the chairman’s previous letter – are within – you know, they’re within the math as a percentage of the population.
But I think you raise a good point. And I don’t underestimate the challenge of recruiting a force that could do this at the national level. I am encouraged, because the army is seen as, you know, the one non-corrupt institution the country has and is held in pretty high regard by the people. And they’re also an excellent fighting force historically, with a great warrior mentality. SEN. WEBB: We run the risk, as I mentioned to Gen. Petraeus and Gen. McChrystal, of allowing our success to be defined by something that’s never happened before, something that we can’t totally control, which is something that concerns me.
You’re familiar with this raid that took place in Somalia within the past 24 hours?
ADM. MULLEN: I’ve seen the press reports. (Laughs.)
SEN. WEBB: In concept, this was American Special Operations coming in over the horizon, presumably off of naval ships, taking out an element of al-Qaida, and returning back to its original point of origin, which to me, if the target was an appropriate target, is an appropriate way to use military force against international terrorism. Would you agree?
ADM. MULLEN: Globally, we’re very focused on this. I’d actually be happy to go through the details of that, but I’d really need to do it in a closed session.
SEN. WEBB: Well, it points to a concern that a lot of people who have served and a lot of people who have written about the situation in Afghanistan share, and that is that maneuverability is the most effective way to conduct operations against international terrorism. And the more territory that you have to defend or occupy, the more vulnerable you are in terms of carrying out your mission. And I know the counter-argument about the populous.
But it would seem to me that, from what I’ve been hearing and reading with respect to the level of activity of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, it seems to be very low. And we have to be pretty careful in terms of how we lock our people down in defensive cantonments as we approach the issue.
ADM. MULLEN: I think you’ll see McChrystal emphasize the exact maneuverability that you’re talking about. I take it a huge part of that is just footprint-related; you know, the larger the footprint, the less maneuverable you may be. But clearly he wants – he does not want his people in cantonments, and he’s made that very clear.
SEN. WEBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Sen. Webb.
SEN. MARK UDALL (D-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, Admiral.
ADM. MULLEN: Good morning, Sen.
SEN. UDALL: It’s good to see you again.
ADM. MULLEN: How are you?
SEN. UDALL: Again, let me touch on three subjects – I’ll do my best to use my time efficiently – on “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” on Iraq, and then turn to Afghanistan.
When you testified at your last confirmation hearing, you rightly pointed out that the law of the land was “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and it was the Pentagon’s job to implement and abide by that policy. We often look to you for personnel recommendations. And as we are on the verge, I believe, of holding the first hearing, perhaps this fall, in 16 years on “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” I would welcome your thoughts and would ask if you would consider putting your thoughts in writing before that hearing later this fall so that we can have the benefit of your thoughts.
ADM. MULLEN: Sure. Yes, sir. Glad to do that.
SEN. UDALL: Thank you for that.
I want to commend the chairman for his willingness as well to consider moving in that way.
To Iraq. National elections in January; some talk of a concurrent referendum on the presence of our troops there. Ambassador Hill believes it won’t actually be brought to the ballot, but I would like your thoughts on what Gen. Odierno and others are preparing if that were to be on the ballot and were to pass.
ADM. MULLEN: Well, this was a possibility last summer, spring/summer as well, and it fell out and it was moved to the right, and it’s obviously resurfaced. It is a great concern on the part of both Ambassador Hill and certainly Gen. Odierno. And there’s obviously – as part of the political spectrum that is there that I is think is such a dominant part of how Iraq moves ahead, the outcome with respect to whether this actually gets voted on or not, the referendum occurs, I think is really critical.
We’re on a plan and on a glide slope right now that we think makes a lot of sense, gets us through the elections. Then we come to – actually, we start coming down pretty dramatically starting in the spring to that 35,000 to 50,000.
Clearly the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government are in charge of their country. There’s a referendum that we’re going to leave, we’ll leave. We don’t – the military view, from a security standpoint right now, think that’s pretty high-risk. And the glide slope that we’re on is one that we’re much more comfortable with.
SEN. UDALL: Thanks for that update. And I think we’d be well- served to continue to prepare for any of those particular scenarios.
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. UDALL: Let me turn to Afghanistan. But in an interesting connection, I want to turn to Deborah. And she may have done more for our future counterinsurgency efforts than anybody, because, if my memory is right, she strongly encouraged you to read the book entitled “Three Cups of Tea.” I know Greg Mortenson. I know you’ve gotten to know him. And he’s pointed out the cultural sensitivity is, in some ways, one of our greatest weapons.
And there’s no place like the United States for cultural sensitivity, since we have every culture, every ethnic group, every racial group, every country represented here among our population.
He noted, and then you noted in some remarks, that Western fast- food culture is not well suited to that part of the world. He’s speaking of Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Results are measured in decades and generations, rather than minutes and seconds. It takes time to build relationships, time to learn cultures, time to foster sincerity and mutual respect.
And my question to you is do we have that time? I remember Gen. Petraeus talking about different clocks in Washington and Baghdad, and – as we were talking about time lines.
What are the different clocks telling you about what happening in Kabul and here in Washington?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I’m greatly worried about the time that we have, and that’s why I have such a sense of urgency about getting this right. It’s why I recommended – very specifically, it’s why I recommended that Gen. McChrystal be put in the leadership position out there, because I don’t think we have a lot of time.
And at the same time, it’s almost – I feel we almost must take time, because it’s such a vital part of the world long-term, from the standpoint of our strategic national interests. And this is the – this is Afghanistan, Pakistan. It’s Central Asia and South Central Asia.
So it’s a real conundrum, in that regard. I think we have to move quickly to start to turn this thing around.
And then at the same time, I think we have to have a long-term relationship that allows those young girls – when I went out there to open up that school – to grow up and make a difference, as they raise families.
And as Mortenson, Greg Mortenson would say, they give guidance to their sons, you’re not going to go do this.
SEN. UDALL: Yeah. The heartening core of that effort is that the elders in those communities – in other words, the men, understand the potential if you empower women in those cultures. And at the same time, those are very patriarchal cultural structures.
So again, thank you, Deborah, for what you’ve done to help us in these important national security efforts.
My final question is the footprint debate we’re having about Afghanistan. And I know Secretary Gates expressed a concern about being seen as occupiers as well as partners.
And he said an increased footprint becomes part of the problem, depending on whether the nature of the footprint and the behavior of those troops and their attitudes and their interactions with the Afghans promotes an occupier perspective or a partnership perspective.
What are your thoughts on this question of an increased footprint and how we find that right – (inaudible)?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I think under no circumstances can we be seen as an occupier. I mean, we know we’re not; that’s who we are. We’ve never been. We haven’t done it anywhere.
But that’s not – that message has got to be understood by the Afghan people. And I think Gen. McChrystal, as I indicated earlier, said it very well not too long after he got there.
He was much less concerned about footprint, although he has a concern, than he is about what are you doing with it. So what are you actually doing to engage the people to let them know you’re on their side in a way that they accept that?
And we were in too many cantonments. We were not integrated with them; we weren’t living with them. And the message was one of occupation on the part of many.
Their – again, the Afghan people don’t like the Taliban. They don’t want to return to that rule, but they’ve still got questions about whether we’re staying long-term – not just the combat side of this – but whether we’re staying long-term and we’re going to be with them.
And before, we left them – and they know that. So it’s really, I think, what you’re doing with the forces that are there, as opposed to the size of the footprint.
SEN. UDALL: I see my time has expired. Thank you again for your service, and I look forward to working with you as we continue to make the case to the American people with three or four, maybe even just two quick bullet points about why we have to be successful in Afghanistan.
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Sen. Udall.
And again, thank you very much, Admiral, for your service, for your answers today.
I think that colonel and that captain that I quoted before kind of put the issue very succinctly for me, which is that we’ve got to look hard at how we generate Afghan forces. And that the lack of Afghan forces is our Achilles’ heel.
And that was dramatically brought to our attention when we were in Helmand province. The ratio of forces was five to one; five Marines, one Afghan soldier. Totally unacceptable.
No one’s talking about removing all of our forces from Afghanistan. The question is whether we go beyond at this time and make a commitment at this time to additional combat forces beyond what has been already put in motion.
That is an issue worthy of debate. It is part of a much larger picture. As you have indicated here this morning, this is not just a picture of one part, of just combat troops additional to what’s already a commitment or not.
There are many other issues involved here in terms of the resources that may be requested. We look forward to your review as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, taking, I presume, an independent review with your other chiefs –
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: – of whatever recommendation is presented to you. You obviously put a great deal of stock in a McChrystal recommendation when it’s forthcoming, but you will be giving your own independent view to the secretary of Defense, and then he will be giving his recommendation, I presume, to the president. Is that the way it works?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, sir. That’s the process.
SEN. LEVIN: And so we are going to stand adjourned. We’re going to move as quickly as we can, obviously, with your nomination.
It’s, I’m sure, going to get a very strong unanimous vote from this committee. We’ve already heard everyone speak out on it. We can see no reason why we can’t proceed very promptly to the floor.
There may be some questions for the record, but if there are, we would hope they would be filed within the next 24 hours so we can get this done promptly.
We thank, again, your wife and the family. I think each one of us have touched upon their service, as well as your own. And we’re grateful for all of it.
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you, sir. Thank the chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: (Sounds gavel.) We stand adjourned.