Q Do you still believe that the U.S. is not winning in Afghanistan and is therefore losing?I've got to be honest with you: I think that's a pathetic answer.
ADM. MULLEN: When I said that, the main -- which was September '08, I think -- the main thrust of that statement was to get to the underresourcing effort -- the underresourcing of the Afghanistan campaign and to be very clear about that, which it had been and certainly I think even more so, as General McChrystal showed up, than I had understood at the time.
So the main focus was there.
I think that what -- with the strategy, with the resources, with the leadership with a focus on the people, as is indicated in this operation, that we can succeed there. It's going to take some time, and I think it's going to be hard.
Q But just on the winning or losing question, what would you say today?
ADM. MULLEN: I haven't -- I mean, I'm just -- I haven't -- I haven't really made any assessment with respect to that. I think we're headed in the right direction. We got the right leadership, the right strategy, the right resources. And I think we can succeed.
He hasn't really made any assessment with respect to that? Had he made an assessment in the fall of 2008, or was he just speaking off the cuff?
Is he telling us now that he wasn't saying anything about whether we actually were winning or losing, but that we had not created conditions conducive to victory by adopting the right strategy, prosecuting the most effective operational approach, and contributing sufficient resources? ("The main thrust of that statement...", etc.) Because that, to me, is a totally different question.
As far as I can tell, the honest answer should be something like "I thought we were losing then, and a big part of the reason is that we didn't have the right approach, the right people, or the right troop numbers. Now we do, but it's going to take some time to turn it around. So where I would have told you before that we were losing and needed to make some dramatic changes to start winning, right now I'd just say that yes, we're still losing, but we've made the necessary changes and are waiting for events to bear that success out."
Of course, that's not me talking, and that's not my opinion. That's just what I think would constitute an accurate reflection of Adm. Mullen's true opinion and not some mealy-mouthed question-begging -- that is, assuming that the only reason we were ever losing was because of resources and strategy, and assuming that every listener agrees.
And so I pose some questions to the online commentariat:
1. Are we winning in Afghanistan?
2. What conditions would constitute a "win"? (Please be specific. If you think we are winning, then how much more winning to we have to do before we call it a win? If you think we're not winning, then what do we need to change to start?)