Afghanistan: Media Finally Picking Up on Significance of 2010

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Security turnaround in Afghanistan in 18 months a must: Mullen

24 May 2009

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US military must "dramatically" stem a three-year slide in the security situation in Afghanistan over the next year and a half to make room for civilian efforts to stabilize the country, the US military chief said Sunday.

Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military solution was not enough but the buildup in US forces would be used to turn around the security situation.

"I think with the troops that we put on the ground there, that over the next 12 to 18 months, we have to dramatically change the security situation and stem the tide," he said.

"We've had an increasing level of violence in the last three years in '06, '07, and '08, and I think in '09 and '10, we have to start to turn that around," he said.

President Barack Obama has approved deployments that would double the size of the US force in Afghanistan to 68,000 by the fall.

The escalation has run into criticism from some Democrats who worry that the new administration is wading deeper into an Iraq-like quagmire without clear goals or an exit strategy.

In a sign of growing unease in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this month fired the top US commander in Afghanistan in hopes that his replacement, a former special operations commander, will bring fresh ideas to the fight.

Mullen said the military buildup was "absolutely necessary" to turn the security situation around.

"But the military solution is not enough. We've got to have government, governance capability increase dramatically. We've got to have development, economic development.

"We need more civilians from our government and civilians from other agencies and other countries, as well," he said.

But he said that, not unlike Iraq, security has to be brought to a point where "these other aspects can be developed much more fully, and we'll know at that point in time how far we've gone and what our next step should be."

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