At a Pentagon news conference, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke about India and Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan and the global financial crisis.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said safe havens in Pakistan played a role in allowing the terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba to plan and practice for the attack that killed nearly 200 people in Mumbai and paralyzed India’s largest city and financial center for three days.
Pakistani security forces have cracked down on the Lashkar-e-Toiba camp and arrested 20 terrorists. Safe havens and other ungoverned areas historically have presented huge problems for the United States. Al-Qaida used ungoverned areas in Afghanistan to plan the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The Taliban is regrouping in ungoverned areas of the federally administered tribal area in Pakistan. Mullen said he also is concerned about safe havens in Somalia and Yemen and ungoverned areas in Africa.
“A significant objective in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to not have a safe haven,” Mullen said. “And I try to pay a lot of attention to the evolution of potential safe havens.”
Mullen said the United States needs to get more forces to Afghanistan. The 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team will arrive in Afghanistan next month, and additional forces will arrive as soon as possible, Mullen said.
“But that would speak to just the security piece,” he said. “I think there needs to be a considered effort economically and a considered effort in the governance, rule of law, diplomatic-political side.” Flowing troops into the country will not, by itself, fix the problems of safe havens, but will create and shape the environment, he said.
Mullen also talked about the current financial crisis, noting that the new U.S. administration will take a “very, very intense, focused, comprehensive view at what we’re buying.” He said he is discouraged by the lack of cost control in many Defense Department acquisition programs, and that the department is going to have to get a grip on that.
The chairman said he is concerned about the global financial crisis and its impact on security.
“I think it will impact on security over a period of time, and we have to recognize that,” he said. “I think it’s important for all of us in the Defense Department to squeeze our budgets, to draw in where we can and for leaders to commit to that and certainly recognize that there are challenges out there which we’ll continue to have to resource.”