Mullen Opposes Fixed Troop Withdrawal

Ad Feedback - WASHINGTON - A fixed timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq could jeopardize political and economic progress, the Pentagon's top military officer said Sunday.

Admiral Mike Mullen said the agreement between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to set a "general time horizon" for bringing more troops home from the war was a sign of "healthy negotiations for a burgeoning democracy."

Assess Conditions on the Ground

The best way to determine troops levels, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said, is to assess the conditions on the ground and to consult with American commanders.

Mullen, asked about the possibility of withdrawing all combat troops within two years, said, "I think the consequences could be very dangerous."

The military buildup in Iraq that began more than 18 months ago has ended. In recent days, the last of the five additional combat brigades sent in by Bush last year has left the country.

If conditions keep improving, "I would look to be able to make recommendations to President Bush in the fall to continue those reductions," Mullen said.

Situation in Afghanistan

Turning attention to Afghanistan, where violence is on the rise from Taliban attacks, Mullen said expressed concern about "a syndication of various extremists and terrorist groups" in Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghan border that poses a serious threat to both countries.

He cited "mixed progress" in Afghanistan, but said he added, "I would not say in any way, shape or form that we are losing in Afghanistan."

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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