WikiLeaks document dump increases focus on Afghanistan

But on the war itself, Meet the Press's David Gregory hit Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen hard about what exactly is the nature of the mission itself, which Gates told Amanpour was nothing too complicated.

But Mullen seemed to get tripped up when Gregory focused for a moment on the cover of this week's Time magazine, which features an Afghanistan woman who had her ears and nose torn off by members of the Taliban, asking whether we are in Afghanistan in part to protect that from happening to similar women, or is the mission to actually make Americans safer at home — a traditional fissure to some in American foreign policy between the U.S.'s role (as in the Balkans) to be the world's policeman and fight human rights abuses, vs. fighting purely to protect American lives.

MR. GREGORY:  It--it's--it seems to be an important point, if you look at the cover of Time magazine, which has a pretty striking photograph of a young woman whose nose was cut off by the Taliban, a--just one indication of how brutal and horrific these people are.  And, and they've done this when they were in power and, indeed, even when they've been out of power.  The grim reality, if that's an argument for why the U.S. should not leave, is that our central mission, the central mission of the United States is not to protect the women of Afghanistan.  Is that fair?

ADM. MULLEN:  I think the central mission in Afghanistan right now is to protect the people, certainly, and that would be inclusive of everybody, and that in a, in an insurgency and a counterinsurgency, that's really the center of gravity.

MR. GREGORY:  But you said a year ago our central mission was to get at those who threaten us.  Our central mission is not to protect the women, who could still be brutalized if the Taliban comes into power in any fashion.

ADM. MULLEN:  Well, the Taliban are incredibly unpopular with the Afghan people, even as we speak, and they have--as they have been for a long period of time.  The mission--the overall mission is to dismantle and defeat and disrupt al-Qaeda.  But we have to make sure there's not a safe haven that returns in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan has to be stable enough, has to have enough governance, have to--has to create enough jobs, have an economy that's good enough so that the Taliban cannot return to the brutality of the kind of regime that you just showed.

MR. GREGORY:  However, the United States could still withdraw and, and do so having achieved the mission, and yet women like, like those on the cover of that magazine could still be in danger.

ADM. MULLEN:  Certainly, the, the, the long-term goal is to make sure that the--with respect to the population in Afghanistan, that there's a governant--governance structure that treats its people well.  And I--but to say exactly how that's going to look and what specifics would be involved, I think it's just way too early.

Mullen spoke on the same day that the lead story in the Sunday New York Times reported that the U.S. that's counter-terrorism, and not counterinsurgency as announced earlier this year, that is the war strategy that is "working" currently in Afghanistan.

The article also reports that the U.S. soon hopes to begin doing in Iraq what was known to have a quantifiable effect in reducing the number of bad guys (In Iraq it was called "The Sunni Awakening) — that is, start paying them:

A long-awaited campaign to convert lower-level and midlevel Taliban fighters has finally begun in earnest, with Mr. Karzai signing a decree authorizing the reintegration program. With $200 million from Japan and other allies, and an additional $100 million in Pentagon money, American military officers will soon be handing out money to lure people away from the insurgency.

The massive WikiLeaks document dump a week ago that found its way onto the front pages and websites of the New York Times, The Guardian of London, and Germany's Der Spiegel dominated news coverage for a couple of days last week, and that, along with two other major issues involving Afghanistan, made it topic du jour on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Those other issues included the cold hard fact that July was the deadliest month for U.S. soldiers in the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan, and the fact that more than 100 House Democrats  (including for the first time Tampa's Kathy Castor) voted against funding the war, three times the number that had ever done so previously.

On the issue of the morality of WikiLeaks, led by 39-year-old Australian Julian Assange, Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked tough while speaking to ABC's Christine Amanpour, making her debut as the new host of ABC's This Week.

AMANPOUR: Are you worried? I mean Admiral Mullen said that this leak basically has blood on its hands?

GATES: Well, I mean given the Taliban's statement, I think it — it basically proves the point. And my attitude on this is that there are two — two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that's up to the Justice Department and others. That's not my arena. But there's also a moral culpability. And that's where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.

Over on Fox News, conservative commentator Liz Cheney says President Obama should direct Iceland to shut down the website.

"I would really like to see President Obama to move to ask the government of Iceland to shut that website down. I would like to see him move to shut it down ourselves if Iceland won't do it. I would like to see them move aggressively to prosecute Mr. Assange and certainly ensure that he never again gets a visa to enter the United States."

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