Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants more troops for Afghanistan war

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's top military adviser endorsed an increase in U.S. forces for the worsening war in Afghanistan on Tuesday, setting up a split with leading Democrats in Congress and complicating an already-tough decision for the president himself.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the war is growing more complicated and the enemy gaining in sophistication. Winning will require more resources from outside Afghanistan, including more troops, Mullen told Congress.

"A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces, and without question, more time" and dedication, Mullen said.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in charge of both American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, delivered a grim assessment of the war to Washington last month and is expected to follow up soon with a request for thousands of additional troops and more equipment.

That will leave Obama to decide whether to expand a war that polls say is rapidly losing public support in the U.S. and drawing pointed criticism in Congress. He has already roughly doubled the size of the American military force in Afghanistan since taking office, with only limited gains to show. Obama has an ambitious strategy to turn around a war that will soon enter its ninth year, and his aides say the plan needs time to work.

Mullen said he does not know how many additional troops McChrystal will request, but he left no doubt that the commander has concluded that the 21,000 U.S. troops Obama has already approved are not enough.

Sitting opposite Mullen, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee was unswayed. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan warned the White House last week that he does not want to see a request for more troops until the United States takes bolder action to expand Afghanistan's own armed forces.

"Providing the resources needed for the Afghan Army and Afghan police to become self-sufficient would demonstrate our commitment to the success of a mission that is in our national security interest, while avoiding the risks associated with a further increase in U.S. ground combat troops," Levin declared at Tuesday's hearing.

Several other Democrats have said they want a clearer timeline and measures of progress from the administration before approving large expansions of the troop commitment or mission. Congress has approved most of the money Obama requested for the war so far, but a large troop increase would probably require a separate add-on spending bill.


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