Mullen Says Leaks Don't Reflect Gains in Afghanistan War, Strategy Change

Leaked documents on the nine-year-old U.S. war in Afghanistan don’t reflect recent gains and an improved strategy, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“I certainly understand -- it is the ninth year, it is a long time, the sacrifices have been significant,” Admiral Michael Mullen said in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Yet, at the same time, I think the strategies are right. And the release of these documents, best that I can tell, have not affected the strategy. Many of them were very, very old.”

Mullen was responding to the publication last week by WikiLeaks.org of more than 91,000 secret U.S. military reports from Afghanistan.

“I remain appalled,” he said on NBC. “The potential for the loss of lives of American soldiers or coalition soldiers or Afghan citizens is clearly there.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a former Air Force lawyer, said those responsible for the leaks “should be court-martialed.”

Their “crime is undercutting those who are in the fight,” and they “have put at risk people who have chosen to help us in Afghanistan,” Graham, of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

‘Right Strategy’

Mullen, asked whether the leak documents show the war to be unwinnable, said, “We really are at a time in Afghanistan, after the president’s review, where we’ve got the right strategy, the right leadership, and the right resources.”

The new strategy for Afghanistan that President Barack Obama announced last year includes more U.S. troops and a focus on al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.

One theme through the leaked reports is the allegation that Pakistan’s military spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, is secretly aiding the Taliban and allied Islamic militant rebels who are fighting the U.S.

“That there are elements of the Pakistani intelligence agency that are connected or have had relationships with extremists is certainly known, and that has to change,” Mullen said.

Recent Visit

He said he recently spent time in Pakistan with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, leader of that nation’s security policy and a former head of the spy agency.

“He has actually directed his military to take on the insurgent threat in his own country,” and “he’s made great strides,” Mullen said.

Mullen declined to comment on the status of the investigation by the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the leak of the documents.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, interviewed on ABC’s “This Week” program, said he is looking for ways to minimize the risk of future leaks without denying troops needed intelligence.

“We’re going to look at, are there ways in which we can mitigate the risk, but without denying the forward soldiers the information,” Gates said.

The defense secretary said he was “mortified, appalled” by the leak.

“It puts our soldiers at risk” because “our adversaries can learn a lot about our techniques, tactics and procedures from the body of these leaked documents,” he said.

Gates also reiterated that the U.S. is “not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011.” That date, he said, is when “we are beginning a transition process and a thinning of our ranks.”

“If the Taliban are waiting for the 19th month, I welcome that, because we will be there in the 19th month and we will be there with a lot of troops,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Riddell in Washington at Kriddell1@bloomberg.net

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