Looking for Answers in Iraq

Admiral Mike Mullen is certainly keeping himself busy in the weeks before he retires as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On a two-day visit to Afghanistan, perhaps his last as chairman, Mullen voiced his concerns about the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. He said he has brought the issue of insurgents in the region up with Pakistan’s military in the past, but that the U.S. and Pakistani leaderships have at times differed on the idea of urgency: Pakistan’s “patience level is such that sometimes we would disagree on time frames and the need to move now.”

Moving on to another hot spot, Mullen landed in Iraq today. Few details were released about his plans there, but on the way to Iraq, he offered some insight into efforts to combat the recent spike in violence in the country. Ramped up attacks in June were largely blamed on Iran-supported militias. Mullen said that U.S. and Iraqi forces have successfully reduced the violence levels but admitted that he is “still in the wait-and-see mode to see whether or not this can be sustained.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did tell reporters that he’d be asking the Iraqi leadership about whether they want U.S. troops to remain in the country after the planned end-of-the-year drawdown date. U.S. military officials need to know sooner rather than later or else face a more costly process. As Mullen put it, “The point is, you know, we're at a deadline. We need an answer.”

On Friday, word came from the UN that the Pakistani Taliban has been added to its terrorist list, which means the group will face frozen assets and their access to arms will be cut off. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington is happy about the move: “Today's action sends a strong message to those who support and finance terrorism, and reinforces U.S. efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida.”

And special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman left on Thursday of last week for a trip to Afghanistan’s neighborhood, with stops in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and the Kyrgyz Republic. Grossman will be in Pakistan to attend tomorrow's fourth meeting of the U.S.-Afghanistan-Pakistan Core Group, according to State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner, “to support the process of Afghan-led reconciliation.”