Posts Tagged ‘Adm. Mike Mullen’

Mullen Wary of Israeli Attack on Iran

March 7, 2010

by Ray McGovern, CommonDreams.org, March 7,  2010

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came home with sweaty palms from his mid-February visit to Israel.  He has been worrying aloud that Israel will mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran.

This is of particular concern because Mullen has had considerable experience in putting the brakes on such Israeli plans in the past.  This time, he appears convinced that the Israeli leaders did not take his warnings seriously — notwithstanding the unusually strong language he put into play.

Upon arrival in Jerusalem on February 14, Mullen wasted no time in making clear why he had come.  He insisted publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”

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US preparing military for possible Iran conflict

January 9, 2010

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN WASHINGON, The Jerusalem Post, Jan8, 2010

The US does not want to see confrontation with Iran but is still preparing its military for that possibility, America’s top uniformed officer said Thursday.

“We’ve looked to do all we can to ensure that conflict doesn’t break out there, while at the same time preparing forces, as we do for many contingencies that we understand might occur,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during an appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Mullen had been asked whether the US military was stretched too thin to take further action in trouble spots beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

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US Army Chief: We’ll Always Stand by Israel’s Side

August 31, 2009

Senior American officials attend farewell party for Israel’s military attaché Major-General Benny Gantz, who will assume IDF deputy chief post in October

By Yitzhak Benhorin,  August 28, 2009, Israel News, Aug 27, 2009


Washington — The US will always stand by Israel’s side, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said overnight Thursday during a farewell party for Israel’s military attaché in Washington Major-General Benny Gantz, who will be retuning to Israel following his appointment as IDF deputy chief of staff.

The event, which was held at the home of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, was attended by a number of senior American officials, including Dan Shapiro, who heads the Middle East desk at the National Security Council, and Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy.

The military attachés of Egypt and Morocco were also on hand.

Mullen said the attendance of top US military officials was a sign of the strong ties between the US and Israel.

Gantz, who is scheduled to return to Israel on Thursday, will be briefed on the responsibilities of his new position by outgoing Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel on Sunday.

Gantz will officially assume the post of deputy IDF chief on October 1. He will be replaced in Washington by outgoing IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni.

POLITICS-US: Vested Interests Drove New Pakistan Policy

September 18, 2008

Analysis by Gareth Porter | Inter-Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Sep 17 – The George W. Bush administration’s decision to launch commando raids and step up missiles strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda figures in the tribal areas of Pakistan followed what appears to have been the most contentious policy process over the use of force in Bush’s eight-year presidency.

That decision has stirred such strong opposition from the Pakistani military and government that it is now being revisited. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Pakistan Tuesday for the second time in three weeks, and U.S. officials and sources just told Reuters that any future raids would be approved on a mission-by-mission basis by a top U.S. administration official.

The policy was the result of strong pressure from the U.S. command in Afghanistan and lobbying by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the CIA’s operations directorate (DO), both of which had direct institutional interests in operations that coincided with their mandate.

State Department and some Pentagon officials had managed to delay the proposed military escalation in Pakistan for a year by arguing that it would be based on nearly nonexistent intelligence and would only increase support for the Islamic extremists in that country.

But officials of SOCOM and the CIA prevailed in the end, apparently because Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney believed they could not afford to be seen as doing nothing about bin Laden and al Qaeda in the administration’s final months.

SOCOM had a strong institutional interest in a major new operation in Pakistan.

The Army’s Delta Force and Navy SEALS had been allowed by the Pakistani military to accompany its forces on raids in the tribal area in 2002 and 2003 but not to operate on their own. And even that extremely limited role was ended by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2003, which frustrated SOCOM officials.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose antagonism toward the CIA was legendary, had wanted SOCOM to take over the hunt for bin Laden. And in 2006, SOCOM’s Joint Special Operations Command branch in Afghanistan pressed Rumsfeld to approve a commando operation in Pakistan aimed at capturing a high-ranking al Qaeda operative.

SOCOM had the support of the U.S. command in Afghanistan, which was arguing that the war in Afghanistan could not be won as long as the Taliban had a safe haven in Pakistan from which to launch attacks. The top U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, worked with SOCOM and DO officers in Afghanistan to assemble the evidence of Pakistan’s cooperation with the Taliban. .

Despite concerns that such an operation could cause a massive reaction in Pakistan against the U.S. war on al Qaeda, Rumsfeld gave in to the pressure in early November 2006 and approved the operation, according to an account in the New York Times Jun. 30. But within days, Rumsfeld was out as defence secretary, and the operation was put on hold.

Nevertheless Bush and Cheney, who had been repeating that Musharraf had things under control in the frontier area, soon realised that they would be politically vulnerable to charges that they weren’t doing anything about bin Laden.

The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was the signal for the CIA’s DO to step up its own lobbying for control over a Pakistan operation, based on the Afghan model — CIA officers training and arming a local militia while identifying targets for strikes from the air.

In a Washington Post column only two weeks after the NIE’s conclusions were made public, David Ignatius quoted former CIA official Hank Crumpton, who had run the CIA operation in Afghanistan after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, on the proposed DO operation: “We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack.”

That either-or logic and the sense of political vulnerability in the White House was the key advantage of the advocates of a new war in Pakistan. Last November, the New York Times reported that the Defence Department had drafted an order based on the SOCOM proposal for training of local tribal forces and for new authority for “covert” commando operations in Pakistan’s frontier provinces.

But the previous experience with missile strikes against al Qaeda targets using predator drones and the facts on the ground provided plenty of ammunition to those who opposed the escalation. It showed that the proposed actions would have little or no impact on either the Taliban or al Qaeda in Pakistan, and would bring destabilising political blowback.

In January 2006, the CIA had launched a missile strike on a residential compound in Damadola, near the Afghan border, on the basis of erroneous intelligence that Ayman al-Zawahiri would be there. The destruction killed as many 25 people, according to local residents interviewed by The Telegraph, including 14 members of one family.

Some 8,000 tribesmen in the Damadola area protested the killing, and in Karachi tens of thousands more rallied against the United States, shouting “Death to America!”

Musharraf later claimed that the dead included four high-ranking al Qaeda officials, including al-Zawahiri’s son-in-law. The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported last week, however, that U.S. and Pakistani officials now admit that only local villagers were killed in the strike.

It was well known within the counter-terrorism community that the U.S. search for al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan was severely limited by the absence of actionable intelligence. For years, the U.S. military had depended almost entirely on Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, despite its well-established ties with the Taliban and even al Qaeda.

One of the counter-terrorism officials without a direct organisational stake in the issue, State Department counterterrorism chief Gen. Dell L. Dailey, bluntly summed up the situation to reporters last January. “We don’t have enough information about what’s going on there,” he said. “Not on al Qaeda, not on foreign fighters, not on the Taliban.”

A senior U.S. official quoted by the Post last February was even more scathing on that subject, saying “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military, reacting to the U.S. aim of a more aggressive U.S. military role in the tribal areas, repeatedly rejected the U.S. military proposal for training Frontier Corps units.

The U.S. command in Afghanistan and SOCOM increased the pressure for escalation early last summer by enlisting visiting members of Congress in support of the plan. Texas Republican Congressmen Michael McCaul, who had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, declared on his return that was “imperative that U.S. forces be allowed to pursue the Taliban and al Qaeda in tribal areas inside Pakistan.”

In late July, according to The Times of London, Bush signed a secret national security presidential directive (NSPD) which authorised operations by special operations forces without the permission of Pakistan.

The Bush decision ignored the disconnect between the aims of the new war and the realities on the ground in Pakistan. Commando raids and missile strikes against mid-level or low-level Taliban or al Qaeda operatives, carried out in a sea of angry Pashtuns, will not stem the flow of fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan or weaken al Qaeda. But they will certainly provoke reactions from the tribal population that can tilt the affected areas even further toward the Islamic radicals.

At least some military leaders without an institutional interest in the outcome understood that the proposed escalation was likely to backfire. One senior military officer told the Los Angeles Times last month that he had been forced by the “fragility of the current government in Islamabad,” to ask whether “you do more long-term harm if you act very, very aggressively militarily”.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

(END/2008)

US drone strikes in Pakistan hours after sovereignty pledge

September 18, 2008

By Omar Waraich in Islamabad | The Independent, 18 September 2008

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A US drone attacked suspected militants inside Pakistan yesterday, only hours after the US military chief assured Pakistani leaders that the country’s sovereignty would be respected.

In an effort to calm escalating tensions between Washington and Islamabad, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, made a surprise visit to the Pakistani capital after it emerged that President George Bush had authorised US forces to attack Taliban militants in tribal areas on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The two allies have been locked in a game of brinkmanship since US special operations troops mounted the first known ground assault in Pakistan, allegedly killing up to 20 people in a village in South Waziristan. Afterwards Pakistan’s army vowed to retaliate and defend itself “at all costs”.

Admiral Mullen met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Pakistani army chief General Ashaf Kayani. Afterwards the US embassy said: “Admiral Mullen reiterated the US commitment to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and to develop further… co-operation.”

But within hours a pilotless drone fired four missiles into South Waziristan, killing five militants, according to local intelligence officials. Reuters claimed the attack was the product of “US-Pakistani intelligence-sharing”, but government officials appeared to disagree.

“The [Mullen] visit was nice and he was very understanding,” said Ahmad Mukthar, the Defence minister. “Now these airstrikes have come as a surprise.”

The new civilian Pakistani government is fearful that increased US intervention will inflame an already hostile public. On Tuesday, President Asif Ali Zardari urged Gordon Brown to persuade the Americans to relent during a meeting at Downing Street.

“The UK agrees with us that such moves are counterproductive,” said an official. “Britain has a major role to play [here] – they know the area better than the US.”

Bush secret order to send special forces into Pakistan

September 12, 2008

· White House seeks British backing

· Fear of escalating regional conflict

An observation overlooks the mountains on the Pakistan border

An observation post sits in the mountains over looking Speray on one side, and the Pakistan border on the other. Photograph: John D McHugh

A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raised fears last night that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.

The unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July after an intense internal administration debate, comes amid western concern that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and its al-Qaida backers based in “safe havens” in western Pakistan’s tribal belt is being lost.

Following Bush’s decision, US navy Seals commandos, backed by attack helicopters, launched a ground raid into Pakistan last week which the US claimed killed about two dozen insurgents. Pakistani officials condemned the raid as illegal and said most of the dead were civilians. US and Nato commanders are anxious to halt infiltration across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border of insurgents and weapons blamed for casualties among coalition troops. The killing of a US soldier in eastern Afghanistan yesterday brought American losses in 2008 to 112, the deadliest year since the 2001 intervention. The move is regarded as unprecedented in terms of sending troops into a friendly, allied country.

But another American objective is the capture of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader held responsible for organising the 9/11 attacks. He and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are thought to be hiding in the tribal areas of north and south Waziristan.

Bush’s decision to extend the war into Pakistan, and his apparent hope of British backing, formed the background to a video conference call with Gordon Brown yesterday. “What’s happening on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan is something where we need to develop a new strategy,” Brown said before talking to Bush.

Brown said he would discuss the border issue with Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, who visits Britain next week.

Bush’s unusual move in personally calling the prime minister for an Afghan strategy discussion has led to speculation that the US president was trying to line up British support for the new policy, including the possible involvement of British special forces in future cross-border incursions.

Bush’s executive order is certain to cause strains with some Nato allies fearful that a spreading conflict could bring down Pakistan’s weak civilian government and spark a wider war. Last night there were indications of open disagreement.

James Appathurai, a Nato spokesman, said the alliance did not support cross-border attacks or deeper incursions in to Pakistani territory.

“The Nato policy, that is our mandate, ends at the border. There are no ground or air incursions by Nato forces into Pakistani territory,” he said.

Nato has 53,000 troops in Afghanistan, some of which are American. But the US maintains a separate combat force dedicated to battling al-Qaida and counter-terrorism in general. Nato defence ministers are due to discuss Afghanistan in London next week.

Last week’s raid, and a subsequent attack on Monday by a Predator drone firing Hellfire missiles, provoked protests across the board in Pakistan, with only Zardari among leading politicians refusing to publicly condemn it.

Pakistan’s armed forces chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs”. He went on: “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.”

He denied there was any agreement or understanding to the contrary. His comments were widely interpreted as a warning to Zardari not to submit to the American importunity. But his tough words also raised the prospect of clashes between US and Pakistani forces if American military incursions continue or escalate.

Until now, Washington has regarded Pakistan as a staunch ally in the “war on terror” that was launched in 2001. But the alliance has been weakened by last month’s forced resignation of the army strongman, former general Pervez Musharraf, and his replacement by Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower.

Polls suggest most Pakistanis favour ending all counter-terrorism cooperation with Washington, which is blamed for a rising civilian casualty toll in Afghanistan and in the tribal areas.

Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, joined the chorus of condemnation yesterday. He reportedly told state media Kayani’s warning that unilateral US actions were undermining the fight against Islamist extremism represented the government’s position.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Robert Gates, defence secretary, told Congress this week that victory in Afghanistan was by no means certain and the US needed to take the fight to the enemy inside Pakistan.

Mullen called for a “more comprehensive strategy” embracing both sides of the border. “Until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming,” he said.

US and Pakistani forces have clashed by accident in the past during operations to root out militants, although sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are said to harbour deep resentment about perceived American interference.

Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan

September 11, 2008

By ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI | The New York Times, Sep 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior American official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the missions. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

The Central Intelligence Agency has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But the new orders for the military’s Special Operations forces relax firm restrictions on conducting raids on the soil of an important ally without its permission.

Pakistan’s top army officer said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.”

It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country. A second senior American official said that the Pakistani government had privately assented to the general concept of limited ground assaults by Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission.

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