Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with reporters about US strategy in Afghanistan on Wednesday in Washington.

Admiral Mullen intent on fighting Afghanistan war, not fighting about it

Michael Mullen, Obama's top military adviser, on Wednesday dismissed reports of infighting within the Obama adminstration over Afghanistan war strategy.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen waved away questions about dissension within the Obama administration about the war in Afghanistan outlined in a new book, saying both sides in the dispute were now focused on implanting the current strategy.

“Optimists or pessimists notwithstanding, everybody at that table agreed that this was the strategy and that we would go execute it. And that is where I am focused right now,” Admiral Mullen said at a Wednesday morning breakfast for reporters.

Bob Woodward’s latest book, “Obama’s Wars,” cites memos and interviews showing deep divisions within the administration over the course of the war in Afghanistan. Mullen and other military leaders are portrayed as favoring a strategy of adding 40,000 additional troops, while the book describes President Obama and key White House advisers seeking a more limited commitment of additional resources and a clearer exit plan. In the end, the president went to the US Military Academy at West Point and announced a plan to send 30,000 additional troops.

Mullen said Wednesday that “how we got here is interesting in history, and I said earlier the thoroughness and the vigor and rigor with which we reviewed it, I applaud. We are now in execution and I see some signs of progress. It is a tough fight.“

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mullen is the president’s top military adviser. At Wednesday's breakfast, he cautioned that a review of US policy in Afghanistan slated for December is not likely to produce major changes.

“December is really a review ... of the implementation to see how we are doing, and there may be some adjustments. But I don’t expect any massive changes in December. I think it is important to get to July 2011, because I think then we will have very strong indicators as to whether this is working or not. From my perspective, we are right in the heart of executing this strategy which the president approved.” July 2011 is when the United States is scheduled to begin reducing its combat presence in Afghanistan.

Describing what he saw as progress in Afghanistan, Mullen said US forces are focused on safe havens the Taliban had for a number of years. “Actually we are digging them out fairly effectively … but I want to wait and see obviously toward the end of this year and well into next year to see if this thing is headed fair and that is not to say it isn’t or it can’t. So I am not trying to be overly optimistic or rosy. I want to be realistic about this and we are in that execution right now.”

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