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US Military Chief Says US Must Look Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan

The Chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, says the United States must look beyond the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and reach out to partners around the world to reduce uncertainty. Speaking to foreign journalists in Washington Tuesday, the U.S. military chief also expressed concern about developments in Iran and China. VOA's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Admiral Mullen used his Foreign Press Center presentation to highlight the need of the United States military to work with other countries and non-governmental agencies. He also warned U.S. leaders about being too focused on what he called "the here and now."

"The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan weigh heavily on the minds of the American people, as they do on mine, but we must not be myopic in our view. There is more to the Middle East than those two countries, and there is more to the world than the Middle East."

Mullen said his top priority is to develop a military strategy focused on bringing stability to the Middle East and cited Iran as a concern. "I worry about Iran because of the rhetoric, because of the development in the nuclear world, because of the support for the insurgents in Iraq, and there's been a reduction in violence. And it's soon too to know how much of that we should attribute to the fact that the Iranians are no longer supporting these high-tech weapons going into Iraq."

Responding to a question, the chairman made clear that military force is one possible option regarding Iran. "I'd never take the military option off the table. Having the military option on the table doesn't mean it's going to get used but it certainly is intended to insure that there is no miscommunication or miscalculation. That the potential is there and the resolve is there, though it is restrained at this point," he said.

Admiral Mullen stressed that diplomacy with Iran is very important and said he believes sanctions now in place should be maximized.

He said that the Asia-Pacific region is also a strategic concern, and singled out China's military build-up and a Chinese anti-satellite test conducted in January that has yet to be explained. "It speaks to a higher level of concern that many of us in the United States have about what is the strategic intent of the investment, the high tech investment that the Chinese government is making with respect to its military capability in the future," he said.

Chinese officials have responded to U.S. questions about the test, saying it was not hostile and posed no threat.

Admiral Mullen said a peaceful, productive rise of China would be a good thing for everyone, and said the question is how to help insure that outcome and how to improve existing military-to military relationships between the two countries.

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