Military officer: Violence up in Afghanistan

May 20, 2008 10:32:25 AM PDT
Violence in Afghanistan is increasing, as security in Iraq in recent months has improved, the top U.S. uniformed military officer told Congress Tuesday. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is directly jeopardizing peace in Iraq.

"Restraint in our response does not signal lack of resolve or capability to defend ourselves against threats," Mullen said in prepared testimony before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

Mullen said the U.S. is deploying more troops to Afghanistan and encouraging local forces to do the same to contend with a growing insurgency, increased attacks and a burgeoning drug trade.

"In short, a stable Iraq and Afghanistan that are long-term partners and share our commitment to peace will be critical to achieving regional stability and security," he said.

"This will require years, not months, and will require the support of the American people, our regional allies and concerted action by the Iraqi and Afghan people and their leaders," Mullen added.

Sen. Arlen Specter, a member of the panel, said he is most concerned about the Bush administration's refusal to fully engage Iran in diplomatic discussions. U.S. diplomats have met with Iranian officials as part of a broader regional conference on Iraq, but insisted that discussions be limited to Iraq.

The U.S. accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, supporting terrorist groups and encouraging violence in Iraq by providing weapons and other material support to Shiite militants there.

Specter, R-Pa., said he has seen talks with North Korea and Libya bear fruition and thinks similar progress could be made with Iran.

If the government refuses to engage Iran, "we're missing a great opportunity to avoid a future conflict," Specter said.