“I have every confidence that (the enemy) will continue to lose, so long as coalition and Afghan forces increase their presence and their pressure on his operations and improve their own capacity,” he told reporters at the Foreign Press Center.
Last month, the Obama administration completed a strategy review that concluded Taliban momentum had been halted in many parts of Afghanistan and that al-Qaida leaders thought to be plotting further terrorist attacks on the U.S. from Pakistan sanctuaries have suffered grievous losses.
But the review also made clear that further progress won’t come easily. And it indicates that ultimate success depends heavily on factors beyond Obama’s control, such as Pakistan’s effectiveness in eliminating al-Qaida and Taliban havens on its side of the border.
Mullen reiterated these points on Wednesday. The chairman called Pakistan the “epicenter” for global terrorism and said he was “confident” that the Pakistani military knows what it has to do to eliminate the threat.
“It is absolutely critical that the safe havens in Pakistan get shut down. We cannot succeed in Afghanistan without that,” he said.
When asked whether he was painting too rosy a picture of the war, Mullen said that wasn’t his intention.
“I’m encouraged, but I do not want to understate in any way, shape or form the difficulty of the task,” he said. “It clearly continues to be severe.”