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Entries in Mike Mullen (18)

Monday
Oct032011

Before Lashing Out, US and Pakistani Intel Reached Out to Insurgent Group

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Eleven days ago, the United States' top military official seemed to sum up Washington's current relationship with Pakistan when he accused the country's premier intelligence service of supporting insurgents who attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

But what Admiral Mike Mullen did not say is that the U.S. had secretly met with a member of that same insurgent group -- known as the Haqqani network -- as part of efforts to find a political end to the war in Afghanistan, and that the institution that helped set up the meeting was the same intelligence agency he had condemned: the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, or I.S.I.

The meeting, according to two current U.S. officials and a former U.S. official, was held in the months before the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. embassy and NATO's military headquarters, which U.S. officials have blamed on the Haqqani network. In his congressional testimony Sept. 22, Mullen called the Haqqanis a "veritable arm" of the I.S.I., but failed to mention that the I.S.I. facilitated the meeting between the U.S. and Ibrahim Haqqani, a son of founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and a major player in the group, according to a senior U.S. official.

The meeting suggests there is much more to the recent spat between Islamabad and Washington while the violence in Afghanistan has increased as U.S. troops have begun to withdraw. At stake, U.S. officials said, is how they will try to reduce the violence in Afghanistan and to what extent Pakistan will be allowed a say.

From Pakistan's point of view, military and intelligence officials have long argued that their connections with the Haqqani network -- going back decades in the Pakistani tribal areas and in Afghanistan -- can facilitate the only way to end the war: through political negotiation. But for U.S. officials, even as the debate in Washington continues over the best way to wind down the war, there was a high-level decision after the embassy attack to name and shame the I.S.I. for supporting the Haqqanis, hoping it would work where no previous pressure or incentives placed on Pakistan had worked, according to a senior Western official.

The very public criticism of the I.S.I. was also a sign of American military frustration.

One official said that it was Pakistan's intelligence service that urged the U.S. to hold the meeting. The U.S. agreed, the I.S.I. set it up, and then the meeting took place -- but then violence launched by the Haqqanis increased and targeted the heart of Western power in Kabul, infuriating the U.S.

The U.S. was also enraged by what seemed to be either apathy or connivance in the single most violent attack of the war as far as injuries to U.S. soldiers. Three days before the embassy bombing, a truck bomb blew up outside an American base outside Kabul, injuring 77 soldiers. Just days before that, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, had made his first visit to Pakistan's military headquarters. During the visit, according to a separate senior U.S. official, he asked Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Pervez Ashfaq Kayani to try to stop a truck bomb that the U.S. believed was about to target U.S. soldiers. Kayani offered to help, the official said, but the bomb blew up anyway. Allen's request was first reported by The Guardian.

The fact that the U.S. and Pakistani intelligence service set up the meeting with Haqqani and discussed how to stop a Haqqani attack suggests a much more nuanced -- and very often confounding -- relationship with Pakistan's intelligence service than Adm. Mullen and other military officials have publicly admitted in the last two weeks.

The Pakistanis, in turn, have tried to portray themselves as the victims of a smear campaign headed by Mullen. As Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in the Washington Post Friday, "While we are accused of harboring extremism, the United States is engaged in outreach and negotiations with the very same groups."

Complicating matters is the deteriorating relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan officials have jumped on American criticism of Pakistan to threaten to cut off bilateral attempts to make peace. President Hamid Karzai, responding to massive pressure from political parties that have long opposed the Taliban, has slightly changed his tune on Pakistan in the last two weeks.

Up until the assassination of former President Burhannudin Rabbani on Sept. 20, Karzai was the most vocal Afghan proponent of a strong bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As early as one year ago, a senior advisor told ABC News that Pakistan could "help deliver a peace that the U.S. can't."

But since Rabbani's death, Karzai has criticized the Pakistani government for not helping the peace process. In a nationally televised speech Monday night, he repeated that criticism and named the many Afghan officials believed to have been targeted by Pakistan-based militants. Still, he said he hoped the two "brotherly" countries could work together.

U.S. officials are trying to encourage the bilateral relationship and reschedule a tripartite meeting about Afghan reconciliation that was scheduled for Oct. 8, but has been indefinitely postponed by Karzai. U.S. diplomatic officials argue that without a robust dialogue between all three countries, there is little chance that the violence in Afghanistan will reduce.

But still, they admit they have little to show for efforts to find a political settlement to the war.

Asked whether the meeting with Ibrahim Haqqani meeting produced any results, a U.S. official responded with a one-word answer: "no."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep292011

Obama Administration Plays Down Pakistan-Terror Link

George Doyle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House hasn't fully endorsed the view of the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that ties Pakistani's spy agency to a militant group that launched an attack on Kabul, Afghanistan two weeks ago.

Adm. Mike Mullen told a Congressional panel last week that Pakistan's controversial Inter-Services Intelligence agency provided support to the Haqqani network that has been blamed for attacks on American interests in Afghanistan including the U.S. Embassy.

Mullen said the Haqqanis are a "veritable arm" of the ISI, which has been accused of both supporting and opposing terrorist activity.

Pakistan has denied the charge, while White House spokesman Jay Carney pushed back slightly from Mullen's accusation Wednesday, saying it is "not language that I would use."

However, Carney did add that the Obama administration believes the ISI has some ties to the Haqqanis, a group often associated with al Qaeda.

Asked about Mullen's comments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wouldn't say whether she agreed with his assessment, insisting that the Pakistani government is still an ally of the U.S. in fighting Islamic militants.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep222011

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen Says Pakistan 'Exporting Violence'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Appearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen maintained their hard-line stance that Pakistan has to do more to rein in the Haqqani Network that uses safe havens on the Pakistani side of the border to launch attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Mullen even went so far as to say that Pakistan is "exporting violence" and that Pakistan's intelligence agency provided the Haqqanis with support for their recent terror attacks in Kabul.

Mullen went further than defense officials who've said that the Haqqani Network was responsible for the recent terror attacks in Kabul prior to former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani's assassination, although the bomber's affiliation has yet to be determined.

The Haqqanis are "veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency [ISI]," he said in opening remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that it had provided the Haqqanis with support to conduct the Kabul attacks.

"With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted the truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy," Mullen said of the recent attack on a base in Wardak that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers. "We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28 attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations."

Both Mullen and Panetta described the turn to high-profile attacks in Afghanistan as a shift in tactics because insurgents are losing on the battlefield. Mullen said they are "as much about headlines and playing on the fears of a traumatized people, as they are about inflicting casualties, maybe even more so."

He added, "We must not misconstrue them. They are serious and significant in shaping perceptions but they do not represent a sea change in the odds of military success."

Mullen said Pakistan's government has chosen to "use violent extremism as an instrument of policy," which jeopardizes its relationship with the United States and its role as a player in the region.

Panetta said that in recent high-profile meetings with Pakistani officials, U.S. officials have conveyed "a very clear message to them and to others that they must take steps to prevent the safe haven that the Haqqanis are using.

"We simply cannot allow these kinds of terrorists to be able to go into Afghanistan, attack our forces, and then return to Pakistan for safe haven and not face any kind of pressure from the Pakistanis for that to stop."

Panetta called the existence of safe havens "not tolerable" and "unacceptable," and said continued U.S. pressure on Pakistan's leaders was the only way they would get that message. "The only way to deal with the Pakistanis, " he said, "is to keep giving them a clear message of where the lines are. "

Panetta declined to reveal what options the United States might have available to prevent the Haqqanis from conducting more attacks against U.S. forces, as he said last week, but said they would not be a surprise to Pakistan.

Thursday's hearing was Panetta's first congressional appearance since becoming defense secretary in July. It is also Mullen's final appearance before his term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ends next Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep212011

US Ready to Drop Iraq Troop Level Down to 30,000

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At the beginning of September, there were close to 45,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.  By a week from Friday, that figure will have decreased by 15,000 soldiers.

Speaking Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that the Pentagon is on track to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq to 30,000 by Sept. 30.

At one time, there were as many as 170,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

Pressed for more details after the speech, Mullen told reporters, "This is the drawdown plan that [the U.S. commander in Iraq] had in place specifically, and it's really a plan that gets us to, under the current agreement, to [pulling] all the troops out by the end of December."

However, Mullen and other military and civilians leaders were not giving specifics as to how many American soldiers will remain in Iraq as of next January.

Washington and Baghdad are still in talks about what the U.S. troop presence should be in order to help Iraq's army and police maintain stability in the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep192011

Adm. Mullen Continues Heat on Pakistan over Haqqani Network

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Frustrated by continuing violence in Kabul, Afghanistan, the United States is in the midst of one of its most aggressive attempts to link Pakistan with the militant Haqqani network and convince Pakistan’s military to confront the group believed to have a safehaven within Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The latest push by the U.S. was delivered by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

In a two hour, one-on-one meeting this weekend, Mullen “conveyed his deep concerns about the increasing -- and increasingly brazen -- activities of the Haqqani network and restated his strong desire to see the Pakistani military take action against them and their safe havens in North Waziristan,” according to his spokesman, Capt. John Kirby.

The Pakistani military did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

In Kabul, U.S. military and civilian officials express a level of frustration with Pakistan that is more overt and public.

Officials use phrases like “the gloves will come off” and the relationship has “turned a corner,” although they don’t seem to know -- or have any unity on -- what steps will come next.

The officials are responding to two major attacks in the last week: the 20-hour siege in Kabul that included six rockets landing inside the U.S. embassy, and a massive truck bomb outside of Kabul that injured 77 NATO service members -- the single largest number of U.S. casualties in any incident in 10 years of war.

U.S. officials blamed both incidents on the Haqqani network, which is believed to operate out of North Waziristan.

The most pointed critique came from the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, who accused the Pakistani government of having direct ties with the Haqqani network.  His assertion was one of the most aggressive statements made in years by a U.S. diplomat serving in Islamabad.

“There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government,” Cameron Munter told Radio Pakistan, a state-run news agency, in a remarkably frank comment that “accurately reflected the ambassador’s mood,” according to a U.S. official.  “We have to make sure that the efforts that we are making to build the ties between our intelligence services bring about results,” Munter continued.  “We cannot let events like that happened in Kabul to take place.”

Munter’s pointed criticism is rare coming from a Pakistan-based diplomat, but it was just one of many examples of the U.S. piling pressure on Pakistan since the siege in Kabul.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug012011

Mullen: Afghan Mission Won't Be Hurt by Obama Troop Withdrawal

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) LikeViews: 16 ABC News Radio photos Aug 1, 2011 5:41 AM Add a comment ... Subscribe (KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen says the U.S. mission in Afghanistan won't be jeopardized by President Obama's order to withdraw 33,000 "surge" troops within the next 12 months.

In a surprise visit to Kabul Sunday, Adm. Mullen expressed confidence that the Pentagon "can meet both the needs on the ground as well as the deadlines and the goals that have been laid out by the president."

Obama had ordered an additional 33,000 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan at the start of January 2010, but with the administration anxious to begin transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police, the president approved the gradual drawdown of forces to be completed by the end of next summer.

There have been no specific deadlines for withdrawal finalized, according to Mullen. However, the admiral said he expected American ground commanders to provide him with their recommendations by no later than October.

As for the Taliban's recent activity, which has included the assassinations of high-profile figures including Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Mullen insisted that the attacks were desperation moves by an enemy that can no longer stage major offensives due to huge losses of fighters in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

Adm. Mullen to Visit China as US, Japan, Australia Have Military Exercise in S. China Sea

Joint Chiefs of Staff(WASHINGTON) -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will depart Friday afternoon for China for his first official visit.   Gen. Peter Pace was the last Joint Chiefs Chairman to visit China in 2004.
 
During his four day visit, Mullen will meet with his Chinese counterpart General Chen Bingde who visited the U.S. in May.  He’ll also meet with civilian leaders and visit military sites.
 
At the same time of Mullen's visit, a first-ever small joint naval exercise will take place in the South China Sea by the U.S., Japan and Australia, which will include a U.S. destroyer, a Japanese destroyer and an Australian patrol boat.  
 
Earlier Friday, the Japanese Defense Ministry issued a statement saying one of its destroyers would be participating in a joint naval exercise with a U.S. destroyer and an Australian patrol vessel.   
 
A Defense official says the ships will be participating in what’s known as a passing exercise, or a "passex," which will be limited to a drill for ships to train their navigation and communications skills while in communication with each other. The three ships, along with ships from other navies, happened to be in Brunei to participate in a fleet review this week to honor a defense conference taking place in that small country.
 
The South China Sea has suddenly become a focal point of conflict between China and its neighbors because China has designated the waters as part of a large  economic exclusion area.   Vietnam has recently protested the presence of Chinese ships sent to disturb oil exploration surveys, while the Philippines accuses China of having violated its territorial waters several times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

Iran Blamed for Latest Spike of US Deaths in Iraq

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. is blaming Iran for the rising number of American soldiers killed in Iraq.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that Shiite militias are increasingly responsible for U.S. fatalities and that they're receiving training and equipment from Tehran.

Some of the weapons provided by Iran that are used by Shiite fighters include lethal armor-piercing versions of roadside bombs and rocket-boosted mortars.

While he wouldn't say whether Iran's clerical leaders are directing the attacks on U.S. forces, Mullen told reporters Thursday that they're at least aware of what's going on.

As for the U.S. response, Mullen didn't rule out a possible assault on Shiite militias if the attacks continues.

Since the U.S. combat mission officially ended in Iraq in late August 2010, 55 Americans service personnel have died and 244 were reported wounded.  June has been the deadliest month this year with 15 fatalities, nearly all at the hands of Shiite militias.

Two more U.S. soldiers died Thursday as the result of a roadside bomb just outside the main military base in Baghdad.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul072011

US Official: Pakistani Government 'Sanctioned' Journalist's Murder

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday the Pakistani government "sanctioned" the killing of a critical Pakistani investigative journalist, becoming the first high-ranking official to make the public allegation.

The tortured body of Syed Saleem Shahzad was discovered in late May, days after he published an exclusive report which suggested al Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistani navy. Months before, Shahzad had told colleagues and a Human Rights Watch researcher that he felt personally threatened by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.

The New York Times reported earlier this week the Obama administration had seen intelligence that directly linked the agency to the murder.

Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday, "I have not seen anything to disabuse that the government knew about it. [But] I cannot, I would not be able to walk in and say, here's the string of evidence I have to confirm it."

Mullen said he could not confirm the ISI in particular had anything to do with the killing, but he was "hugely concerned" about the death.

At the time of Shahzad's death, Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, visited his home to offer condolences and told reporters there it was possible the journalist was killed over a personal matter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun242011

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Afghanistan Troop Pullout Too 'Aggressive'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's top military commander says he's on board with President Obama's decision to withdraw 33,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan by September 2012.

However, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, let it also be known Thursday while appearing before the House Armed Services Committee that the accelerated drawdown was "more aggressive" than he and other senior commanders would have liked to see at this point in the nearly 10-year-long war.

Hedging his bets, Mullen told lawmakers, "More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course.  But that does not necessarily make it the best course.  Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take.  I believe he has done so."

The plan for a hastened pullout comes with risks, according to Mullen, but he can see upsides to the president's decision as well since it allows the military to more quickly respond to other potential hot spots and also cuts the "not inconsiderable cost of deploying those forces."

Mullen said despite their differences on the plan for withdrawal, which is scheduled to culminate by 2014, he agrees with Obama that the overall strategy to contain the enemy in Afghanistan is working.

The admiral told lawmakers, "Al Qaeda is on their heels, and the Taliban’s momentum in the south has been checked," which is allowing American forces to begin their transition out of Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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