The top U.S. military officer says he is concerned that the global economic crisis could create instability and, potentially, more terrorism around the world, particularly in African countries and other relatively poor areas.
Admiral Mike Mullen says the global economic downturn could create more terrorists.
"I'm very concerned about the global financial crisis and its impact globally on security," he said. "I think it will impact on security, over a period of time. As food prices continue to go up, as other costs continue to go up, as this pressure is brought globally, I think the possibilities for increased instability, as opposed to increased stability, are there. Without being precise about where that might happen, I just think the extent of this, or the length of this, is going to have an impact on increased instability in countries that are already under a great deal of pressure because their economies aren't that healthy in the first place."
Admiral Mullen says jobs are the key link between the economy and security.
"With a stable economy, jobs come," he said. "You are able to expand and create the kind of positive cycle that gets you away from the violence and other options for unemployed young men, in particular."
At a Pentagon news conference, the admiral also noted that terrorists need places to train and take refuge, and he says economic troubles can also result in more of those, as governments have fewer resources to devote to securing their territory. He says the problem puts "enormous" pressure on African countries in particular, where many governments have very large areas to defend and terrorists have been trying to gain a foothold.
"I am concerned about the potential for a safe haven in Somalia, as I am in Yemen," Adm. Mullen said. "And I try to pay attention to the evolution of potential safe havens, these two in particular, and specifically to the one in Somalia. So I'm extremely concerned about that."
Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not suggest any U.S. military operations to eliminate or prevent the creation of terrorist safe havens. The Pentagon has a variety of programs designed to improve the defense capabilities of partner nations in Africa and elsewhere, and the U.S. government also has aid and development programs that may help ease the impact of job losses caused by the economic downturn. But the admiral says the effort to reduce global terrorism may get more difficult as job losses increase and all countries tighten their defense budgets, including the United States.