In a penetrating analysis reported by the Department of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen warns of the long-term impact of the current conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq on US troops.
- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today offered a warning of what to expect for veterans, the military services and the nation after a decade of war. “This decade of persistent conflict has had an impact that we are just beginning to come to terms with, … an impact of untold costs and an undetermined toll,” U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told an audience at the 2010 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition here.
- Admiral Mullen called the Army and Marine Corps the “center of gravity” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said their “enormous adaptability and courage” have made them the best counterinsurgency force in the world – something they perfected in less than three years. But, Mullen said, the military and the nation as a whole should be prepared for the war’s costs: physical, mental, family and financial problems among veterans; diminished noncombat capabilities; expansion of the veterans health care system; high unemployment rates; and homelessness.
- “There are many soldiers and veterans coming home for whom the battle hasn’t ended,” he said. “For many, it’s just the beginning.” Soldiers and Army veterans already are experiencing these problems, Mullen noted, and he added that “what we can see today is truly just the tip of the iceberg.”
- Soldiers and their families will benefit from increased “dwell time” at home between deployments, Mullen said, but he warned that some problems are more likely to arise with the reduced structure and leadership on the home front. The chairman called for the return of “good old-fashioned garrison leadership,” which he described as “engaged, focused, and in some cases, intrusive,” to deal with the profound operational shift following a decade of war.
- To be fair to Admiral Mullen, he has served as the military’s Cassandra these past few years harping on the long term impact of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a shrill voice in the chamber is not enough. Statutory authority and obligations require more than raising the flag in public forums.
- Dwell time for the Army has improved from 12-15 months to 15-18 months on average. 90 days. Still not enough time to recapture the essence of predictability and stability. Admiral Mullen and the Chiefs can do better.
- Admiral Mullen claims the Army and the Marines are the best “counter-insurgency force in the world” and something that was “perfected” in three years. I think the jury is still out on that one.