By Roxana Tiron - 09/15/09 03:21 PM EDT
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told senators on Tuesday that the Pentagon will likely need to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan to defeat insurgents.
“A properly resourced counter-insurgency [in Afghanistan] probably means more forces,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing for a second term as the nation’s top military officer.
Mullen said that military leaders have not yet recommended to President Barack Obama that more troops be sent. And he has not elaborated on what number of additional troops would be recommended to the president.
The senior U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is expected to ask for additional troops. That request would come at a time of waning public support for the war in Afghanistan and intensifying anxiety among some congressional Democrats who oppose sending more U.S. forces to that country.
As part of a new Afghanistan strategy introduced by Obama in March, about 21,000 new U.S. troops are making or have made their way to Afghanistan.
The United States has 62,000 troops in Afghanistan and that number is expected increase to 68,000 by the end of the year.
But Mullen indicated those troop numbers will not be enough.
“It is very clear to me we will need more resources to execute the president’s strategy from the end of March,” Mullen said. “We’re very badly under-resourced in Afghanistan” for about three to four years, Mullen added.
Mullen asked senators for time and patience to turn around a war that will enter its ninth year this fall.
"We will need resources matched to the strategy, civilian expertise matched to military capabilities, and the continued support of the American people," Mullen said. He indicated that the U.S. and NATO forces are on “the defensive” in Afghanistan.
Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is pressing the administration to send in more trainers to help grow the Afghan security forces rather than send in more ground combat troops.
Mullen told senators there are about 2,000 to 4,000 additional trainers on top of the about 6,500 trainers in the country now. Mullen stressed that “as many as possible” of the new trainers should come from NATO partners.
Levin’s plan is already dividing members of his committee, with Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), the top Republican on the panel, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) criticizing the idea of sending trainers alone and pressing for more combat troops to be sent to Afghanistan.
“If it were just training, [then] the security environment would deteriorate,” Mullen said.
Mullen stressed that the U.S. can succeed in Afghanistan if the military operation there is resourced the way McChrystal indicated in his recent assessment of the situation and the implementation of the president’s strategy.