U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the military’s focus now is the rapid deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and the initial elements of the surge will begin arriving next week.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Admiral Mullen says orders have been issued to combat infantry, engineers and civil affairs experts to deploy to Afghanistan, with 1,500 Marines expected to arrive in southern Helmand Province next week.
Mullen indicated there is a sense of urgency at the Pentagon to implement U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to send tens of thousands of additional troops to the war and then begin withdrawing them by July 2011.
“The debate is over, the decision has been made, it is – it is time to execute,” said Admiral Mullen. “That must be our focus now, our only focus, and it is.”
Admiral Mullen says the Pentagon is accelerating deployment plans for the surge forces and the bulk of the new troops will be in place within the next six months.
Mullen says tens of thousands of construction materials, winter gear and other equipment are also in the pipeline.
The admiral says a significant number of special operations forces will join the conventional combat soldiers and they will target al-Qaida and Taliban leaders.
“So every effort will be made to focus on certainly key leaders of the insurgency, key leaders in the terrorist world from the point of view of counterterrorism, and every effort will be made to capture or kill them,” he said. “And that is ongoing as we speak, and that is a – that is a very important part of the overall strategic approach here.”
Mullen says U.S. and NATO forces are in the third consecutive year of what he called a very significant deterioration of the security environment in Afghanistan.
He says violence is up 60 percent in 2009 compared to last year.
The admiral repeated a pointed assessment of the situation he made earlier this week to troops about to leave for Afghanistan.
“And certainly from that standpoint we are not winning, and in an insurgency you are either winning or you are losing,” said Admiral Mullen. “And if we are not winning, we are losing, which is why I said that, because of the trend in this insurgency.”
Admiral Mullen says troops need to reverse the momentum quickly, which is why the Pentagon is sending in new forces as rapidly as possible.