Mullen leaves door open for more Afghanistan troops

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed confidence today in the U.S. military offensive in southern Afghanistan but left the door open to additional troops in the country if the situation calls for it.

Admiral Mike Mullen sought to clarify an apparent disagreement with National Security Adviser Jim Jones, who reportedly told commanders in Afghanistan not to expect any additional troops.

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Admiral Mullen said he would wait to hear from General Stanley McChrystal, the new head commander in Afghanistan, who is conducting a 60 day assessment.

"His guidance from me and from Secretary Gates is, 'Make your assesement then come back and tell us what you need,'" Mullen said on CNN's State of the Union.

In appearances on three Sunday morning shows, Mullen expressed confidence in the military offensive in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold.

"I suspect it's going to be tough for a while, [but] we have enough forces there now not just to clear an area but to hold it," Mullen said on CBS's Face the Nation.

The chairman said the military is "doing everything we possibly can" to find a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban last week.

Just a day after North Korea launched seven missiles, Mullen said it was hard to understand what message Kim Jong-Il was trying to send other than expressing defiance of international law.

"It's very difficult to figure out exactly what the North Korean leadership is up to," Mullen said on Fox New Sunday, adding that Kim Jong-Il "clearly wants to continue to be belligerent and thumb his nose at the international community."

Mullen said the tests appeared to use short range missiles similar to those fired in 2006.

With U.S. forces completing their withdrawal from Iraqi cities, Mullen said he was optimistic about the security situation in Iraq, which he characterized as stable.

"I'm confident in what I've seen so far that us moving out of the cities really is a positive step," he said.  Though acknowledging insurgents might reappear now that U.S. troops are gone, Mullen emphasied that "up till now, it's gone pretty well."

Mullen, who will accompany President Obama on a trip to Russia beginning later Sunday, said both nations want to move forward with a productive relationship but acknowledged disagreement on key issues, such as a missile defense system in eastern Europe.

"From my perspective that's something President Medvedev and President Obama will have to work their way through," Mullen said, adding that he was conducting a "very extensive review" of the missile defense system that won't be completed until later this year.

Finally, Mullen said that he and his staff would prepare to transition away from the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which the President has said he hopes to change.

"He intends to see this law changed," Mullen said, adding that he is "internally discussing with my staff on how to move forward."

Yet Mullen, who has previously supported "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," urged caution, saying that the U.S. military was stretched too thin to endure a major change in personnel policy.

"I think we need to move in a measured way," Mullen said. "We're in a time where we're fighting two conflicts."

Retired General Colin Powell suggested Sunday that it was time to re-examine the policy.

"The policy and the law that came about in 1993, I think, was correct for the time," Powell said on CNN's State of the Union. "Sixteen years have now gone by, and I think a lot has changed with respect to attitudes within our country, and therefore I think this is a policy and a law that should be reviewed."