“I am here to write a history for the future,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said.
Mullen said he wants to help to write a history in which the United States and Pakistan are “stable, friendly, supportive partners.”
The chairman told the students he understands how difficult life is for the Pakistani people. Car bombs and suicide bombers have killed innocent men, women and children in the Punjab area of the country recently. “It is that reality that we have in common,” he said.
Mullen also acknowledged the lack of trust that has existed between the two countries since the United States cut off military-to-military ties with Pakistan in the early 1990s. As a result, he said, the Pakistanis do not see the United States as a steadfast ally.
“Rather than dwell on that,” he said, “it is really my intent … to build a future that re-establishes that trust.” Particularly, he added, he wants to rebuild the trust between the two militaries.
“You are our future,” he said to the prospective leaders of the Pakistani military. “Your leadership of our future will be crucial to both countries.”
The chairman stressed leadership to the group, noting that while they all have been trained to lead, they now must lead in a broader sense. “Leaders have to take wise, and many times, bold steps,” he said. “Leaders have to take risks. They have to take measured risks, thoughtful risks, but risks they have to take.”
“Listen, learn and lead” is at the core of Mullen’s philosophy, he said, adding that too often people view problems in other areas with the overlay of their own cultures. He said he tries to look at a problem through the eyes of the people living with it, and he urged the students to do the same.
The admiral also spoke about the strategic review of Afghanistan and Pakistan and President Barack Obama’s decision on that strategy, calling it one of the biggest decisions the president will make. While the strategy will surge 30,000 more U.S. forces into neighboring Afghanistan, that is not the only aspect of it, he pointed out. The new strategy stresses not only security, but also governance and economics, he told the students.
“I’ve said many times that you can have all the troops in the world, but if we don’t get the governance working, if we don’t get the corruption under control, if we don’t get jobs for the average Afghan citizen, then the number of troops won’t make a difference,” he said.
The primary mission is to diminish the al-Qaida network and to ensure Afghanistan doesn’t become a harbor for the group in the future. Detailed and specific intelligence is the key to that campaign, as is choking the group off from its financial base, Mullen said.
The “amalgamation, collaboration, cooperation, coordination” of the many terrorist groups that operate in this part of the world are a concern to the chairman. “They are all working more closely together than a few years ago,” he said. “They are not great friends, but they are cooperating in a way that scares me a good bit.”
Obama’s decision to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 was not arbitrary, Mullen said. American leaders will know if the effort will be successful by that date, he explained, and the target date also serves as a goad to the Afghan government to take over security responsibilities on the ground.
The strategy review also looked at the best way to partner with Pakistan. “It will exceed the relationship just between our militaries,” he said. “It will spread to all our government.”
The chairman said he was taken aback by opposition in Pakistan to the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which provides aid to Pakistan in a number of areas. Mullen said the great strength of the bill is that it provides the aid for five years, rather than just one, illustrating that the United States wants the relationship to be deep and long.
Toward that end, Mullen said, the United States and Pakistan need to speed up building military-to-military ties. In addition to increasing officer education opportunities, he told the group, more joint exercises and training between the two countries should be part of that effort.
Mullen is here to visit with Pakistani leaders and meet with American embassy officials. Following his speech at the defense university, he met with Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani.