Extremists in Afghanistan are more concerned with continuing their fight than they are with the timeline calling for next summer’s U.S. drawdown, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen.
“I assure you from what I see that the enemy isn’t focused on July 2011 for whether it makes a difference in their lives,” Mullen yesterday told reporters in Chicago. “They’re in a pretty tough fight, and they’ve sustained some pretty significant losses. There’s a lot of the enemy who’ve been hammered very hard this year, and there’s a lot of the enemy that’s struggling.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway said Tuesday the timeline gives the insurgents “sustenance,” and many Taliban and al-Qaida fighters simply are waiting for U.S. forces to begin their exit.
“I haven’t seen a lot of that as any kind of a dominant theme,” Mullen said yesterday. “It would surprise me if the enemy looked at the date from that perspective.”
As any drawdown will be based on conditions, predicting how much and how quickly the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan will decrease after July 2011 is difficult, he said.
“There’s a long time between now and next July,” Mullen said. “The decisions associated with that will be based on conditions on the ground, and it’s too early to say what those conditions will be.”
Mullen said he supports the president’s Afghanistan strategy to begin a “responsible” drawdown of forces in Afghanistan starting in July 2011. Although much uncertainty exists about when and where such a transition would begin, the timeline gives U.S. forces a goal to work with, he added.
“We understand very clearly what is going to happen in July 2011,” the admiral said. “We will start to thin our forces, [but] that doesn’t mean we’re leaving in any kind of significant numbers.”