BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan– The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with U.S, NATO and Afghan forces based throughout Afghanistan’s Regional Command East today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s first stop was with U.S. and French forces at Task Force Lafayette, outside Kabul. The chairman spoke with French soldiers and their U.S. liaisons during the visit. He thanked the French forces for their contributions to the Afghan people and the coalition.

The visit highlighted the coalition nature of the effort in Regional Command East. In addition to the French forces, Polish forces are in charge of battle space, and the Czech Republic, Turkey and New Zealand manage provincial reconstruction teams. In addition, servicemembers and civilians from Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates work with the command, and South Korea runs a hospital in the region.

The admiral then moved to the village of Mata Kahn, where American soldiers work closely with Afghan police. The village is small and is built along the highway. The Americans and Afghans live, work and fight together as they attempt to bring security to the village.

Army 1st lt. John Billings of the 1st Battalion, 501st Airborne Infantry, escorted the admiral. Billings told Mullen that there has been a “wholesale change” in the way the Afghan people regard the American-and-Afghan unit. “We get out among them every day,” Billings said to the admiral.

District subgovernor Qadir Gule Zabran pointed to the children who materialized to see the admiral and said the town needs a school. Village elder Shir Kham agreed, and added that a mosque also would be welcome.

Zabran told Mullen that he is a great friend of America, “and I hope America stays here forever.”

Mullen shook his head. “We’re not going to stay forever,” he said. “But we will stay friends forever.”

Mullen presented awards to some of the soldiers at the outpost and then flew into Forward Operating Base Sherana, where he took a Texas Air National Guard C-130 to Islamabad, Pakistan, for meetings with Pakistani leaders.

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