(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.
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