Afghan war likely needs more U.S. troops: Mullen

Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:48pm EDT
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By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will probably need to deploy more troops to Afghanistan despite almost doubling the size of its force there this year, the top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday.

The assessment by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the clearest signal yet that commanders will tell President Barack Obama in the coming weeks that they need extra forces to defeat Taliban insurgents.

"A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces. And, without question, more time and more commitment to the protection of the Afghan people and to the development of good governance," Mullen said.

Mullen did not say how many more forces would be required but he said he expected a request in the next couple of weeks from U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee, Mullen stressed the United States faced a race against the clock to reverse its fortunes in Afghanistan, where insurgent violence has reached its highest level since the Taliban was ousted from power in late 2001.

"I have a sense of urgency about this. I worry a great deal that the clock is moving very rapidly," he said.

The United States currently has 62,000 troops in Afghanistan and that figure is expected to rise to 68,000 by the end of the year. There were around 32,000 U.S. troops in the country at the start of the year.

There are also some 38,000 troops from other nations -- mainly NATO allies -- in Afghanistan.   Continued...

<p>Admiral Michael Mullen testifies before a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on his nomination for reappointment to the grade of admiral and reappointment as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Capitol Hill in Washington September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas</p>