June 23 - U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen tells members of the U.S. Congress that although he supports Obama's plan to reduce troops in Afghanistan, the drawdown is more ''aggressive'' than he anticipated and will incur risks. Deborah Gembara reports.
(EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS 4:3 MATERIAL) What exactly will a political solution to ending the war in Afghanistan mean? A day after the President's speech, the U.S.'s top diplomat and top military officer were on Capitol Hill to offer their own insights Most notable are plans to open dialog with the Taliban -- an effort Clinton says the U.S. is already beginning. SOUNDBITE: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying: "This is not a pleasant business, but a necessary one, because history tells us that a combination of military pressure, economic opportunity and an inclusive political and diplomatic process is the best way to end insurgencies. With bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda's remaining leadership under enormous pressure, the choice facing the Taliban is clear: be part of Afghanistan's future or face unrelenting assault. They cannot escape this choice." And unusual candor from the U.S. top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen regarding the president's plan to withdraw 33,000 troops by next summer. SOUNDBITE: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff saying (English) "The president's decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept. More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course. But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the President, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take." In the run-up to Obama's decision, military leaders and outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates lobbied for a more modest withdrawal. Many in military circles worry that the pace of the drawdown could undo gains made in the south. With the insurgency heating up on Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan --- this would in effect give commanders two major fronts to fight on. If the drawdown goes as planned, the U.S. will still have nearly 70,000 forces in Afghanistan by next year --- almost twice the number then when Obama took office in 2009. Deborah Gembara, Reuters.