Joint Chiefs Chairman Says Afghanistan Could Get Worse

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating and could grow even worse next year if changes are not made — and soon.

“I think all the signals right now with respect to Afghanistan raise my level of concern considerably,” said Adm. Michael Mullen, who added that the U.S. focus there has increased over the past year. “The trends across the board are not going in the right direction.”

A growing insurgency in Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest nations and the presumed home to Osama bin Laden, is also threatening Pakistan. Mullen has been meeting regularly with Pakistan’s military leaders to understand the country’s concerns to get their help along the border.

Even though the U.S. is sending more troops in Afghanistan and Defense Secretary Robert Gates is appealing to NATO for more help, manpower is not the only answer.

“We’re short troops, we need to do that. The fighting is tougher and more sophisticated, but it’s this whole spectrum: the political piece, the diplomatic piece, the economic piece in addition to the security piece that needs to improve dramatically," he told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “The trends across the board are not going in the right direction.”

The fight will be even tougher next year, he said, unless the U.S. and its allies respond to the changes there.