Mullen reassures Afghan president
Says Afghan plan will not be altered
KABUL, Afghanistan — America’s top military officer assured President Hamid Karzai yesterday that newly chosen NATO commander General David Petraeus would pursue the policies of his ousted predecessor, whom the Afghan leader warmly praised for reducing civilian casualties.
Karzai’s emphasis on preventing civilian deaths and injuries could make it difficult for NATO to relax rules of fighting that some US troops say give the battlefield advantage to the Taliban. For now, however, no changes have been proposed, said a spokesman for visiting Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During a 45-minute meeting with the Afghan leader, Mullen explained the events that surrounded President Obama’s decision to dismiss General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces. McChrystal resigned after he and his aides were quoted in Rolling Stone magazine making disparaging remarks about top Obama administration officials guiding the civilian mission in the war.
Five international service members were killed in combat yesterday, NATO said. Two, including at least one American, were killed in two separate roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan. Two others, including an American, were killed in roadside bomb attacks in the east.
That brought to 89 the number of international troops killed so far in June — already the deadliest month of the nearly nine-year-old war. The figure includes at least 52 Americans.
Mullen, who spent just a half-day in Kabul, also met with US Embassy officials and had a video teleconference with regional commanders in the field. To both sides, Mullen stressed the importance of a good “lash up’’ between often strained civilian and military efforts to beat back a resurgent Taliban and extend the Karzai government’s control beyond Kabul.
“He stressed to President Karzai that absolutely nothing will change about our commitment to the struggle there, to the strategy,’’ said Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen.
Mullen then flew to neighboring Pakistan, where he repeated the message to President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.