Administration Concerned About US Public Support for Afghan War


The Obama administration is keeping a close watch on developments in Afghanistan amidst rising violence and growing tensions surrounding last week's national elections. Meanwhile, U.S. military officials admit they are concerned about signs of slipping American public support for the Afghan war.

In an interview with CNN, America's top military officer, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called the Afghan situation "serious and deteriorating."

Later, on NBC's Meet the Press, he was asked about the impact conditions there are having on U.S. public opinion.

In a recent poll conducted by the Washington Post newspaper and the ABC broadcast network, just over 50 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.

Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear the drop in support is worrisome.

"I am a Vietnam veteran myself," he said. "I am certainly aware of the criticality of support of the American people for this war and in fact any war. And certainly the numbers are of concern."

But Mullen emphasized the administration has a new strategy in place in Afghanistan, and is moving forward.

He stressed the threat posed by militants in the region is too great for the United States to pull out.

"Afghanistan is very vulnerable in terms of Taliban and extremists taking over again and I don't think that threat is going to go away," added Mullen. "They still plot against us, see us as somebody they want to kill in terms of as many American lives as possible."

The Obama administration deployed thousands of additional troops in Afghanistan this year. The new commander of U.S. forces there - General Stanley McChrystal - is expected to deliver his first formal assessment to the White House in a matter of weeks - a report which is likely to fuel further discussions on troop levels.

In an interview broadcast on ABC's This Week program, Senator John McCain - the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee - said a major influx of manpower is needed.

McCain said he wants to see McChrystal use the same aggressive approach employed during the troop surge in Iraq.

"I think he ought to do what General Petraeus did and that is decide on exactly the number he needs and we debate it [in Congress] and the president makes the ultimate decision," he said.

Security is part of a three-prong approach the Obama administration has adopted toward Afghanistan, along with political progress and promoting development.

Karl Eikenberry, a retired general, is the new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He told Meet the Press that last week's Afghan presidential election was historic, given the level of intimidation voters faced from the Taliban.

"I think it shows that there is great excitement in this country for the Afghans to regain control of their country, their sovereignty," Eikenberry. "We had a two month extraordinary election campaign that we just got through, a very exciting time in which there was unprecedented political activity."

Earlier, Eikenberry told CNN that there still is no firm figure on voter turnout for the Afghan election, acknowledging that Taliban intimidation had an impact, especially in southern Afghanistan.    

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